A Lost Tribe: Britain’s Young Eurosceptics

By Dr Rakib Ehsan

A Lost Tribe is the most comprehensive deep-dive into who young brexiteer voters are.  It reveals a far more complex picture of the understudied group than commonly portrayed.

The report finds that after excluding “don’t knows” and “will not votes”, more than 3 in 10 young people claimed that they intended to vote ‘leave’ in the 2016 referendum.  The findings are backed by Conservative MP, Andrea Jenkyns, who claimed the report “breaks through ideologically-charged attempts to homogenise social groups”.  Its author says that the evidence showed that “not only are brexit voters made up of all age groups, but young brexit voters are as diverse and complex a grouping, as young people generally.”

The paper found that 43.7% of young leave voters had a positive view of cultural diversity while a plurality (46%) of such voters were optimistic about their economic futures.  Young brexit backers were also less likely to distrust the media, TV celebrities, or multinational business leaders – despite, support from those groups for the remain campaign.

Other findings within the report include:

  • Pro-Leave youngsters were more trusting of politicians than their pro-Remain peers in the lead-up to the June 2016 referendum.
  • Not prioritising education and the environment as important issues facing the country is strongly related to pro-Leave sentiments among younger British people.
  • The report found that young brexit supporting voters prioritised issues of immigration, Europe, the economy, healthcare, and defence.
  • 64% of young pro-Leave people in the survey were male; 49.9% of young pro-Remain people were male.

The study is based on a nationally representative survey of 1,351 young British adults and was conducted in May 2016 by YouGov. Although now three years old, this survey remains one of the largest systematic surveys into British young people’s socio-political attitudes and their views on the UK’s membership of the EU. Its findings have previously been considered in papers produced by the academic community but have not previously been reported upon by the press.

What others are saying

I welcome Dr Rakib Ehsan’s excellent report for the Henry Jackson Society. ‘A Lost Tribe’ offers much-needed insight in order to understand the strongest predictors of pro-Leave sentiments among young people. The report breaks through ideologically-charged attempts to homogenise social groups and divide the country into ‘young vs old’ and ‘educated vs uneducated’. Instead, Dr Ehsan offers a nuanced look at young people’s valid concerns regarding EU membership and how they would vote. The referendum result, as proven by ‘A Lost Tribe’, may not be explained by a reductionist economic argument; the role of identity, place and belonging, and values are all crucial. All involved in politics  should look to the report if they want to understand and gain the trust of those young Brexiteers. I believe this is our mission to rebuild trust in British politics.
Andrea Jenkyns MP

Read the report here.

In the words of the author


Lost your password?

Not a member? Please click here