Many young people in the United Kingdom are devastated today by the result of the Brexit vote to leave the European Union. And it’s true that polling before the vote showed that young people overwhelmingly wanted to stay while their elders wanted to leave.
But another factor might have been even more powerful: education. The better-educated a locality was, the more likely its residents were to vote to remain, as these charts from the Guardian show.
EU referendum results: every area by key demographics https://t.co/BfgbD5CnLX pic.twitter.com/0iFqqir7Hs— Guardian Data (@GuardianData) June 24, 2016
It’s possible that a higher proportion of residents with a bachelor’s degree is a proxy for something else — urban localities, for example, or wealthier residents. But the correlation is tighter for higher education than it is for median income, or for the percentage of residents who are the British equivalent of middle class.
And the results are in line with previous surveys that found that a higher level of education was associated with thinking the benefits of the EU outweigh the costs and lower levels of concern about migration among the well-educated.
Analyzing area demographics is a poor substitute for comparing the characteristics of actual voters. Unfortunately, there were no official Brexit exit polls. (Day-of polling, like a widely circulated survey from YouGov, doesn’t tell you whether the people who answered followed through by showing up to vote.) So this is the best we’ve got.