Abstract Introduction The aim of this report is to profoundlystudy the difference in the opinions of the British society about Britain’smembership in EU, associated with the participants’ age. The report will focuson the miscellaneous reasons behind these attitudes towards the issue and whathas caused them. Moreover, there are two substantial questions that this reportconcentrates on. Firstly, whether there is an association between age groupsand the difference in opinions about Britain remaining in the EU, and if thereis, is it a strong or a weak correlation. And secondly, what are the incentivesfor such a connection, or the lack of it. To begin with, the referendum is a frankfact and negotiations are held for the exit of Britain of the European Union in2019. But could we have foreseen this outcome, let’s say 8 years ago, when theBES was conducted in 2010? Have the attitudes changed because of the politicalsituation in the country, or is the referendum an independent result? A more recent YouGov research after theelections of 2015 (YouGov, 2015) stated that the voteon the referendum is determined largely by the participants’ age, sex andeducational qualifications. A certain pattern can be discerned – the older theparticipants are, the more likely they are of approving Brexit.
This evokes theidea of separation of society by age groups. Here it is important to mention thatthe idea of the “divided nation” has been developed by a lot of researchers. Ina paper called “Brexit vote: a divided nation, a divided continent” the author alsoclaimed that Brexit is mostly favoured by the “less-educated, the poorer andolder voters”, who tend to express anti-immigration opinions as well. (Hobolt, 2017 )Similarly, a study suggests that the linkbetween those variables is not the overall discontent of life, but, converselyto the popular belief, the keystone was the individual financial situation ofthe voter.
(Liberini, 2017) Another interestingarticle from Pierre Nouvelle also shows the tendency of the two youngestclasses (aged 18-29 and 30-49) to be in favour of remaining; whereas, the twoolder age groups (50-69 and 70+) tend to support leaving the EU. The authorsuggests that even if we assume that 16- and 17-years-olds were “robbed” oftheir right to choose the situation would not change as a 40% of them would beinfluenced by family members and the referendum result would stay almostunchanged. (Nouvelle, 2017)As a consequence, from the above-mentionedstudies it can be inferred as a hypothesis of this report that: (H1) The younger a voter is, the more likelyhe 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 MethodsIn order to examine rigidly the crux of theissue, this report uses both quantitative and qualitative methods. Thequantitative part of this report consists of the data of the post-electionBritish Election Study, 2010. Question 39 was of particular interest of thisreport as it explores the percentage of approval and disapproval of Britain’sremain in the EU.
The results of the question were thoroughly analysed with thehelp of SPSS crosstabs. The steps of extracting the material needed for theExcel 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 theEU, to 5 “strongly approve” of it. The people who answered this question were2932, as the rest were recoded: “-1” (missing) and “-2” (refusal) as systemmissing. In order to get even more concise results, recoding of the dependentvariable 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 clashof age groups and their approval or disapproval of the problematic topic. As this report is using a bivariate type ofanalysis, age was chosen as an independent variable.
Next, the variable wasrecoded into five age groups: 18-30, 31-43, 44-56, 57-69, and 70-97, whileexcluding those who refused to answer. The aim of this classification is toreflect truthfully and in a more detailed way, the different opinions of thedifferent generations discussed earlier. Lastly, a crosstab with rowpercentages and a Chi-square was created with a level of confidence 99%.Furthermore, for the qualitative approachthis 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 andsecondly because of his age and partly his lack of higher education, but strongattitudes towards British politics.
Even though Jack does not hold anyuniversity degree, he was particularly knowledgeable of British politics andeager to talk about the issue this report is discussing. In fact, Jack grew upin a small town near Liverpool that in his words “was entirely British”,despite now working in the culturally diverse Manchester. These were the mainreasons to expect a truly intriguing and well-informed answer.
Prior to the interview the Ethics DesignTool, specifically designed by the University of Manchester for the purpose of determiningwhether this report required an ethical review, was used. It does not necessitatean ethical review on condition that the person or the organisation that has grantedaccess to the survey used for this report does not require one. Moreover, atopic guide that includes major and sub-bullet-points was also developed priorto the interview and it could be found at the end of this report. Following thestrict rules of interviewing and after the interviewee was asked to provide apermission for recording, as before the interview my colleague Jack wasacquainted with the confidentiality and anonymity rules of this interview.
Results The findings of this report are presentedand analysed in this section. The graph below shows concisely the results ofthe analysed data through SPSS. Source: British Election Study, 2010; (N=2932);Chi Square = 150.736, p<0.001From the graph above it can be observedthat there is indeed an association between approval or disapproval ofBritain's membership in the EU and the participants age. In fact, a pattern canbe 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 agradual decline in the group 44-56 and a more sudden reduction in approval withthe next two age groups. However, the pattern goes backwards when discussingthe disapproval Britain’s seat in the EU. Its highest opponents seem to be aged57-69 with 24% disapproval and 17% for approval, followed by the 70-97 groupwith 22% disfavour and hardly 9% acceptance. Interesting fact to note here isthat 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 BES2010 as there is a strong association between the two variables, but the cohortmostly in favour is the 31-43 one instead of the youngest 18-30 which was theH1 deduction. Moreover, the high contrast of the 57-69group with leading 24% of disfavour was confirmed by the interviewee whoseparents were aged 57 and 61. Jack stated that his parents are strongly infavour 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 “thebest 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 theUnited Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP), even though he falls into the youngestage category 18-30 where in favour of membership is the leading percentage. Thisall comes to support H2 despite renouncing H1, considering Jack’s age. The factthat no one from Jack’s family has a higher education degree also supportsthose researches.
It could be inferred from the graph, the intervieweerecording and those papers that there is truly a pattern – the worse one’sfinancial situation is, the more likely one is to blame it on the immigrantsand find a quick solution in Brexit. Nonetheless, Jack expressed furtherconcerns that resulted in him voting for Brexit. He shared that he wasopen-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 fromdifferent cultures as a whole, has changed a lot of his views, “..Hearing faceto face someone’s story and why did they come to the UK, changes you lot… youknow..
. you hear about the struggles of these people, how their ordinary lifewas destroyed, or how low their parents are paid ridiculously low salaries evenholding a master’s degree and these people have come here to simply help theirparents 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 notsaying I’d definitely change my opinion of the Brexit question if there wasanother referendum, but I’d really think about all my foreign friends when makinga decision…”. Jack added that the recent terrorist attack,however, had made him cautious of his own safety, which made him consider freemovement as a threat and although he has managed to alter his views onimmigration, the situation right now makes him go back to his disfavour ofBritain’s seat in the EU: “(..)It is now that I don’t trust this Muslim guy inthe train…
I’d say I don’t trust anyone anymore…you know I think is a normalreaction when you just don’t feel safe.”. These statements of Jack alsodemonstrate the link between one’s background or present way of life, andapproval of the Brexit issue, which also acquiesces with the researches mentionabove. ConclusionThe results gained through the quantitativemethod proved that there is a strong association between age of theparticipants and their attitude towards Brain’s membership in the EU. The datapartially proved right the first hypothesis. The reasons for that is the petitdifference in approval between the age groups 18-30 and 31-43.
It was expectedthat the youngest one would have the leading result in approval. The same hypothesis was also repudiated bythe interviewee opinions on the issue, considering his age category of 18-30.When it comes to thesecond hypothesis, it was majorly confirmed to be truthful from the interviewwith Jack – his background, career development, and how they have shaped hisattitude towards Brexit. The whole interview supports the literature thisreport used to prepare this second hypothesis, as Hobolt “divided nation” ideasuggests those from a poor background, not well educated or are older than50-years are more likely to disapprove of Britain’s seat in the EU. Overall this reportsuggests that there is a strong dependence of one’s attitude towards Britain remainingin the EU, on the age of the participant. The reasons for this generationdifference in attitudes vary from financial stability to security, througheducation and age, as the above discussed literature and graph suggested, andthe interviewee’s answers confirmed.