Brexit: Politics and the UneducatedSep 24, 2016 · 3 minute read · Comments
So I read “Brexit vote explained: poverty, low skills and lack of opportunities” and came away with the profound feeling that we’re in a very dangerous time; a time where politicians act on the advice of the ignorant.
The research was conducted by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which is a centre-left organisation that is “working to inspire social change through research, policy and practice”. It’s a fairly well regarded research organisation and is unlikely to try and pitch research that reduces, say, social justice, or increases strife.
The article provides a profile of person who is more likely to have voted Leave:
Put simply, older, white and more economically insecure people with low levels of educational attainment were consistently more likely to vote for Brexit than younger people, degree-holders, minorities and the more secure middle- and upper-classes.
Let that sink in for a moment. If you were poorer, less educated and white (in combination) you were more likely to want to leave the EU, that if you were younger, better educated and relatively richer. And ‘Leave’ prevailed in the vote. What does that mean?
It’s been said that we are now living in a post-truth environment where emotions are more important than facts. It appears that the old adage “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not you’re own facts.” no longer holds, and politicians are devising policy according to the emotional response of the electorate rather than using evidence. Brexit appears to be going in that direction.
If you ask the experts, Brexit is a disastrous action. There’s almost no scenario where the UK (as a whole) will be better off outside of the EU, and the best option to be in the EU appears to be as a full member, being part of the decision making process. As educated people (in general), MPs must surely know this, apart from a few right-wing ideologues with the minds firmly set in the 1950s.
In the USA, it is possible that Donald Trump could become POTUS. A campaign that has been characterised by lies, innuendo, racism, and hyperbole. Yet, a large segment of the public supports him. No living president of the USA, Republican nor Democrat, supports him. Not one.
In the UK, campaigners for Brexit also used emotive language, were free and loose with the truth (£350 million a week on the NHS) and drawing on racist and other negative stereotypes to ‘sell’ their campaign. And it worked; Vote Leave prevailed by 51.9% to 48.1%. A triumph of misinformation and lies over reality – which you might just regard as an opinion.
However, coming back to the Joseph Rowntree research, it appears that the people who voted Leave were, basically, the less informed and educated members of the public. Crucially, a lack of higher education is also correlated with a lesser ability to critical thinking and scepticism.
So it’s a double whammy. The Leave campaign relied on emotive language, half-truths, downright lies and played to people’s insecurities and prejudices, and those same people were less equipped to disentangle the arguments, understand the issues, and come to a reasoned, rational, decision. In essence, they were led down the garden path by people with an agenda, to a vote not in their own interest. Perhaps this is what politics has always been.
We are now in a position where the future direction of the country regarding Europe is not being made using evidence & argument about what is best for the country and its inhabitants. Instead, the driving force is a poorly informed decision by a majority segment of the electorate who were ill-equipped to make that decision.
Our leaders have failed us, and continue to do so, in the pursuit of Brexit. Almost all the experts say this. But what do they know, eh? “Britain has had enough of experts”.