A prominent feature of media coverage during the UK’s referendum on European Union (EU) membership was the stark difference between the pro-EU young and their Eurosceptic elders, widely assumed to reflect a generational divide. The positive relationship between age and hostility towards the EU is well established in academic research, however only Down, and Wilson [(2013). “A rising generation of Europeans? Life-cycle and cohort effects on support for ‘Europe’.” European Journal of Political Research 52: 431–456] have considered whether this reflects a generational or life-cycle effect. While their research confirms that there is such a generational effect, their capacity to explain it is limited. This study utilizes data from Britain and builds on previous attempts to identify and explain generational trends in Euroscepticism, bridging it with studies on individual-level determinants of hostility towards the EU, providing the most detailed assessment of the extent and causes of generational differences in Euroscepticism to date. The results confirm that today’s young people are the most supportive generation of EU membership, caused by a combination of factors including their experience of the EU during their formative years, their relationships with domestic political institutions, and their access to education.
Published: September 2017