Understanding the Social and Cultural Bases of Brexit

We use data from a large scale and nationally representative survey to evaluate two narratives about the social bases of Brexit. The first narrative sees Brexit as a revolt of the economically left-behinds; while the second narrative attributes Brexit to the resurgence of an English nationalism. Overall, our findings do not support the left-behind narrative. People with income below the poverty line, or those residing in economically deprived neighbourhoods, or in areas that have seen greater import penetration from China are not more likely to support Leave. Using the Weberian class—status distinction, it is social status, not social class, that stratifies Brexit support. Individuals for whom being British is important are more pro-Brexit. But those who choose national identity over sub-national identity and those reporting omnivorous cultural consumption are less supportive of Brexit. Overall, our results show a strong cultural dimension in Brexit support.