Dr Stuart Fox (Brunel University London) and Dr Sioned Pearce (Cardiff University) have received an award for ‘Best paper published in 2018’ from the Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, an international, peer-reviewed journal that publishes high-quality, original research.
The paper, “The generational decay of Euroscepticism in the UK and the EU referendum”, explores one of the most notable and well-known aspects of the Brexit debate: the age divide. Younger people (particularly those under 35) are almost overwhelmingly opposed to Brexit, while older people (particularly those over 60) are enthusiastically supportive of it.
While academics have known for some time that younger people tend to be more supportive of EU membership than their elders, less is known about why that is, and whether it’s a generational effect (in which newer generations are growing up with values that make them more pro-EU) or a life-cycle effect (in which the life circumstances of younger people make them more pro-EU).
The paper shows that both effects are apparent: Millennials are largely opposed to Brexit because they’ve never known the UK outside of the EU – EU membership is the normal state of affairs for them. At the same time, younger people are better able to take advantage of the opportunities of EU membership – such as being able to work, live, study and travel abroad – than older people, and so have more to lose from Brexit.
The study that this paper forms part of helps us to understand why there is a generational divide when it comes to Brexit, and why the preferences of older and younger voters on the issue seem irreconcilable.