Simon Wren-Lewis on Brexit-Trump Connection

Simon Wren-Lewis - Brexit-TrumpThis study that looked at Trump supporters has got quite a bit of publicity. Some have been surprised that “his supporters are less educated and more likely to work in blue collar occupations, but they earn relative high household incomes, and living in areas more exposed to trade or immigration does not increase Trump support.” They also tend to be a little older. Having looked at who voted for Brexit, I was not surprised.

The two clear explanatory variables for those who voted that the UK should leave the EU were education and age. Much has also been made of the fact that, other things equal, those from areas of the country that suffered from deindustrialization over the last 30 years tended to vote Leave, but there was no correlation with levels or rates of change of income. Nor is there any clear correlation between Brexit support and levels of immigration, again matching this study’s findings for Trump support…

Times of rapid economic and social change can leave large parts of society left behind, particularly if they are not equipped with the skills required to adapt. When incomes then stop growing, these groups long for things to be how they used to be (to “make America great again”). The most obvious manifestation of change is the prospect (not actuality) of living with different people and cultures: hence “taking back control” over immigration in the UK and building a wall in the US. What the Brexit vote showed is that when this fear of the new is combined with a protest over relative economic deprivation it can become a dangerous political force.

—Simon Wren-Lewis
Brexit and Trump Supporters

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