This post on Constituency Opinion reminded me, in many ways, of a personal research experience: doing the fieldwork for the EUCROSS survey; with Romanian immigrants living in London. The study looked at how we experience being European citizens (and members of a multicultural society) in everyday life: how likely we are, for instance, to have friends of a different nationality than others, to enjoy food and music not from our home country, to travel for work/study/leisure; and how this intersects with attitudes towards the EU and with variables such as class and nationality.
Now, let’s look first at the Constituency Opinion data:
The most pro-European constituencies are:
1. Hornsey and Wood Green; MP Lynne Featherstone- Lib Dem safe seat
2. Bristol West; MP Stephen Williams, Lib Dem safe seat
3. Edinburgh North and Leith, Labour/Lib Dem marginal, current MP Mark Lazarowicz, Labour
4. Manchester Withington again Labour/Lib Dem marginal, current MP John Leech, Lib Dems
5. Edinburgh South again Labour/Lib Dem marginal, current MP Ian Murray, Labour, elected with a majority of just 316 votes.
6. Islington North, MP Jeremy Corbyn, Labour safe seat
7. Battersea, Conservative/Labour marginal, MP Jane Ellison, Conservative
8. Islington South and Finsbury; Labour/Lib Dem marginal, current MP Emily Thornberry, Labour
9. Hackney North and Stoke Newington;
MP Diane Abbot, Labour safe seat.
10. Streatham; MP Chuka Umunna, Labour safe seat
So, let’s keep a tally:
Constituencies: 6 in London, 2 in Edinburgh, 1 Manchester, 1 Bristol; so overwhelmingly urban.
MP’s: 5 labour, 3 lib dems, 1 tory, no tory safe seats; (also, interestingly, 4 women, 6 men- which is better gender parity than the UK parliament ever had, and 2 MP’s are non-white/ethnic minority.) Trends are easily visible: pro European constituencies vote Lib Dem and Labor, but with the exception of Battersea, not Conservative.
Now let’s look at the opposite end- the most Euroskeptic constituencies.
1. Clacton constituency created in 2010, won easily by Conservative Douglas Carswell, who now defected to UKIP and is likely to become the first UKIP MP in Britain.
2. Castle Point Conservative safe seat, MP Rebecca Harris
3. Great Yarmouth Labour/Conservative marginal, current MP Conservative Brandon Lewis
4. Christchurch, Conservative safe seat, MP Christopher Chope
5. Blackpool North and Cleveleys constituency created in 2010, won narrowly by Conservative Paul Manyard; could be considered a Labour-Conservative marginal
6. Boston and Skegness Conservative safe seat, MP Mark Simmonds
7. South Holland and The Deepings Conservative safe seat, MP John Hayes
8. Cambridgeshire North East Conservative safe seat, MP Stephen Barclay
9. Waveney Labour-Conservative marginal, MP Conservative Peter Aldous
10.Aldridge-Brownhill Conservative safe seat, MP Richard Shepherd.
Tally again: overwhelmingly rural areas, all in England, all tory MP’s (among which only 1 woman); despite the fact that 3 of these are Labour-Conservative marginals.
So, what is the difference between those who love being in the EU and those who want out?
First and obvious, urban-rural divide; city dwellers seem to like the EU much more than those living in the countryside.
Then- are poorer areas more euroskeptic than the more affluent-ones?Well… yes and no, it’s complicated and it may depend on what indicators you’re using.
For instance, the richest constituencies overall in London tend to be pro-European (Battersea #7, Hampstead and Kilburn #14, Holborn and St. Pancras #18, Wimbledon #19); on the other hand, if we look at affluent areas outside of the big cities, Beaconsfield is in the euroskeptic half, with over 50% of residents wishing for UK to leave the EU, and such is also the case with Cotswolds, the fastest-growing wealthy area in the country; Tatton, Chesire, the highest-ranked area outside London and the south-east, ranks in the very middle, with 48% of residents wanting out.
On the other hand, all constituencies of Glasgow fall in the top 20% most pro-European, as is the case with the poorer areas of London (for example Bethnal Green and Bow (#37 most pro-European, Tottenham, #57); all Liverpool constituencies fall under the more pro-European half.
If we look at the Indices of Multiple Deprivation, euroskeptic Blackpool and pro-European London borough of Hackney have a similar number of LSOA’s (areas the size of a ward or smaller) among the 10% porest in the country; so we can see that the relation between poverty and Euroskepticism definitely does exist but it is, at the same time, not quite straightforward (in the same way the urban-rural divide is).
And this is where it got me thinking a lot about the EUCROSS study (the final report of which, by the way, you can read here).
One key to it could be that age and level of education correlate with attitudes towards the EU more than mere wealth does: it could be the case that the younger and the more educated are more pro-European than their older or less educated counterparts. I do not have evidence for this, but it does sound like a promising hypothesis: on the one hand young, highly educated people can personally benefit from the UK being an EU member state- for example through participating to Erasmus student exchange programmes- or at least to be aware that the opportunity exists; whereas, say, a retired taxi driver would be more hard-pressed to think of immediate, obvious ways in which he personally benefits from being an EU citizen). Looking at Europeans’ preferences in food and music, the EUCROSS study finds that, universally,the younger and more educated respondents take a higher interest in products of other European and world cultures, whereas the older and less educated prefer to stick to their own.
If, say, a Polski Sklep opens in your neighbourhood, whom would you expect to be excited about trying all the new kinds of sausages and whom would feel merely threatened and anxiety-ridden at the thought of ‘these foreigners coming over here…”? This could depend, to an extent, on your age and education, but there may be something deeper: it may depend on how you feel about change and opportunities.
The most pro-European constituencies are impressively ethnically diverse- they are also the areas with the most EU migration (which make a lot of sense if you think about it- people most opposed to immigration, in general, are those living in areas with the fewest migrants ; or in areas that have only very recently experienced their first bout of migration- the more immigrants you know personally, the least likely you are to believe what the Daily Mail says about them).
They are also diverse/unequal in terms of wealth and class: areas where rich and poor people live a few streets away from each other. On the other hand, the more Euroskeptic constituencies are more homogenous: most of their inhabitants are White British, and the class makeup is less unbalanced: a lot of them are poor, working-class, declining communities where the majority lives in a similar level of poverty; where they are affluent areas, they are well-off small towns inhabited by middle aged professionals and/or wealthy retirees.
Most importantly, perhaps, a defining characteristic of the poorer Euroskeptic areas that they do not share with the poorer urban pro-European areas is a sense of hopelessness: they are the communities most likely to feel that their situation has relatively worsened (remember how happiness is relative? This does not mean to say that they are -or even that they consider themselves to be- the ones left the most worst-off by recent economic and political changes). They are the ones who subjectively feel like the establishment is failing them the most; and the lest likely to have the experience of EU citizenship in their daily lives; which makes them an easy target for right-wing populism.