The aim of this report is to profoundly
study the difference in the opinions of the British society about Britain’s
membership in EU, associated with the participants’ age. The report will focus
on the miscellaneous reasons behind these attitudes towards the issue and what
has caused them. Moreover, there are two substantial questions that this report
concentrates on. Firstly, whether there is an association between age groups
and the difference in opinions about Britain remaining in the EU, and if there
is, is it a strong or a weak correlation. And secondly, what are the incentives
for such a connection, or the lack of it.
To begin with, the referendum is a frank
fact and negotiations are held for the exit of Britain of the European Union in
2019. But could we have foreseen this outcome, let’s say 8 years ago, when the
BES was conducted in 2010? Have the attitudes changed because of the political
situation in the country, or is the referendum an independent result?
A more recent YouGov research after the
elections of 2015 (YouGov, 2015) stated that the vote
on the referendum is determined largely by the participants’ age, sex and
educational qualifications. A certain pattern can be discerned – the older the
participants are, the more likely they are of approving Brexit. This evokes the
idea of separation of society by age groups. Here it is important to mention that
the idea of the “divided nation” has been developed by a lot of researchers. In
a paper called “Brexit vote: a divided nation, a divided continent” the author also
claimed that Brexit is mostly favoured by the “less-educated, the poorer and
older voters”, who tend to express anti-immigration opinions as well. (Hobolt, 2017 )
Similarly, a study suggests that the link
between those variables is not the overall discontent of life, but, conversely
to the popular belief, the keystone was the individual financial situation of
the voter. (Liberini, 2017) Another interesting
article from Pierre Nouvelle also shows the tendency of the two youngest
classes (aged 18-29 and 30-49) to be in favour of remaining; whereas, the two
older age groups (50-69 and 70+) tend to support leaving the EU. The author
suggests that even if we assume that 16- and 17-years-olds were “robbed” of
their right to choose the situation would not change as a 40% of them would be
influenced by family members and the referendum result would stay almost
unchanged. (Nouvelle, 2017)
As a consequence, from the above-mentioned
studies it can be inferred as a hypothesis of this report that: (H1) The younger a voter is, the more likely
he or she is to approve of Britain’s membership of the EU, and (H2) The worse one’s financial situation is,
the more favourable the voter will be of the idea of leaving the EU.
Data and Methods
In order to examine rigidly the crux of the
issue, this report uses both quantitative and qualitative methods. The
quantitative part of this report consists of the data of the post-election
British Election Study, 2010. Question 39 was of particular interest of this
report as it explores the percentage of approval and disapproval of Britain’s
remain in the EU. The results of the question were thoroughly analysed with the
help of SPSS crosstabs. The steps of extracting the material needed for the
Excel graph presented in the section “Results” are as follow.
The answer scale of question 39 was set from
“1”to “5”, as “1” to “strongly disapprove” of Britain’s participation in the
EU, to 5 “strongly approve” of it. The people who answered this question were
2932, as the rest were recoded: “-1” (missing) and “-2” (refusal) as system
missing. In order to get even more concise results, recoding of the dependent
variable has been rendered as follows: “1”- “2” as “1”, or “approve”; “2” as
“neither approve or disapprove”; and finally, “4”- “5” as “3”, “disapprove”.
This decision was influenced by the sole focus on this report between the clash
of age groups and their approval or disapproval of the problematic topic.
As this report is using a bivariate type of
analysis, age was chosen as an independent variable. Next, the variable was
recoded into five age groups: 18-30, 31-43, 44-56, 57-69, and 70-97, while
excluding those who refused to answer. The aim of this classification is to
reflect truthfully and in a more detailed way, the different opinions of the
different generations discussed earlier. Lastly, a crosstab with row
percentages and a Chi-square was created with a level of confidence 99%.
Furthermore, for the qualitative approach
this report used is a semi-structured interview with Jack, a 28-year-old male.
This particular person was picked firstly because of his British origin and
secondly because of his age and partly his lack of higher education, but strong
attitudes towards British politics. Even though Jack does not hold any
university degree, he was particularly knowledgeable of British politics and
eager to talk about the issue this report is discussing. In fact, Jack grew up
in a small town near Liverpool that in his words “was entirely British”,
despite now working in the culturally diverse Manchester. These were the main
reasons to expect a truly intriguing and well-informed answer.
Prior to the interview the Ethics Design
Tool, specifically designed by the University of Manchester for the purpose of determining
whether this report required an ethical review, was used. It does not necessitate
an ethical review on condition that the person or the organisation that has granted
access to the survey used for this report does not require one. Moreover, a
topic guide that includes major and sub-bullet-points was also developed prior
to the interview and it could be found at the end of this report. Following the
strict rules of interviewing and after the interviewee was asked to provide a
permission for recording, as before the interview my colleague Jack was
acquainted with the confidentiality and anonymity rules of this interview.
The findings of this report are presented
and analysed in this section. The graph below shows concisely the results of
the analysed data through SPSS.
Source: British Election Study, 2010; (N=2932);
Chi Square = 150.736, p<0.001 From the graph above it can be observed that there is indeed an association between approval or disapproval of Britain's membership in the EU and the participants age. In fact, a pattern can be easily distinguished. The group 31-43 is leading in approving with 27%, followed by the youngest group of 18-30 scoring 26%. Afterwards there is a gradual decline in the group 44-56 and a more sudden reduction in approval with the next two age groups. However, the pattern goes backwards when discussing the disapproval Britain's seat in the EU. Its highest opponents seem to be aged 57-69 with 24% disapproval and 17% for approval, followed by the 70-97 group with 22% disfavour and hardly 9% acceptance. Interesting fact to note here is that the group 44-56 is almost equally divided with 21% against, 19% for and 23% who stated neither. So far H1 is partially endorsed by the results of the BES 2010 as there is a strong association between the two variables, but the cohort mostly in favour is the 31-43 one instead of the youngest 18-30 which was the H1 deduction. Moreover, the high contrast of the 57-69 group with leading 24% of disfavour was confirmed by the interviewee whose parents were aged 57 and 61. Jack stated that his parents are strongly in favour of Brexit, and that he has been raised in an "anti-immigrant" environment. He also shared, that because of their big family of 5 children, his parents have struggled a lot financially, and this is why they feel their "the best possible job positions have been stolen from them, by the immigrants' society". Therefore, Brexit was the financial solution for him and his family, despite waiting for so many years. Jack supported this vision and that of the United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP), even though he falls into the youngest age category 18-30 where in favour of membership is the leading percentage. This all comes to support H2 despite renouncing H1, considering Jack's age. The fact that no one from Jack's family has a higher education degree also supports those researches. It could be inferred from the graph, the interviewee recording and those papers that there is truly a pattern – the worse one's financial situation is, the more likely one is to blame it on the immigrants and find a quick solution in Brexit. Nonetheless, Jack expressed further concerns that resulted in him voting for Brexit. He shared that he was open-minded neither about the Muslim immigration nor the asylum seekers wave. But he admitted that having to work with a lot of Muslim people and people from different cultures as a whole, has changed a lot of his views, "..Hearing face to face someone's story and why did they come to the UK, changes you lot… you know... you hear about the struggles of these people, how their ordinary life was destroyed, or how low their parents are paid ridiculously low salaries even holding a master's degree and these people have come here to simply help their parents pay the bills… it really makes you less self-indulgent and kind of, makes you appreciate more the things life has offered to you.. (…) I'm not saying I'd definitely change my opinion of the Brexit question if there was another referendum, but I'd really think about all my foreign friends when making a decision…". Jack added that the recent terrorist attack, however, had made him cautious of his own safety, which made him consider free movement as a threat and although he has managed to alter his views on immigration, the situation right now makes him go back to his disfavour of Britain's seat in the EU: "(..)It is now that I don't trust this Muslim guy in the train... I'd say I don't trust anyone anymore…you know I think is a normal reaction when you just don't feel safe.". These statements of Jack also demonstrate the link between one's background or present way of life, and approval of the Brexit issue, which also acquiesces with the researches mention above. Conclusion The results gained through the quantitative method proved that there is a strong association between age of the participants and their attitude towards Brain's membership in the EU. The data partially proved right the first hypothesis. The reasons for that is the petit difference in approval between the age groups 18-30 and 31-43. It was expected that the youngest one would have the leading result in approval. The same hypothesis was also repudiated by the interviewee opinions on the issue, considering his age category of 18-30. When it comes to the second hypothesis, it was majorly confirmed to be truthful from the interview with Jack - his background, career development, and how they have shaped his attitude towards Brexit. The whole interview supports the literature this report used to prepare this second hypothesis, as Hobolt "divided nation" idea suggests those from a poor background, not well educated or are older than 50-years are more likely to disapprove of Britain's seat in the EU. Overall this report suggests that there is a strong dependence of one's attitude towards Britain remaining in the EU, on the age of the participant. The reasons for this generation difference in attitudes vary from financial stability to security, through education and age, as the above discussed literature and graph suggested, and the interviewee's answers confirmed.