11 February 2014


Last month Tim Whitemore headed a post on his Daily Telegraph blog How many Ukippers will be dead when the referendum happens? Sorry, but it matters.
He asked the question because of … a new YouGov poll [which] shows, while the old loathe the EU the young still think that we're better off remaining in it. While those over 60 would vote two-to-one to leave the EU if there was a referendum tomorrow, those under 25 would vote two-to-one to stay in, as this [chart] shows:

Something similar is true of immigration: those with degrees think it has been economically beneficial by a margin of almost three-to-one, and younger people are much more inclined to support taking refugees from Syria.
He went on to point out that:
While the population is ageing, the number of people who have been to university, lived abroad and weren't born until after Britain joined the EU is increasing – and these people, even as they get older, are more inclined to stick with Britain's membership.
and concluded:
The good news for Ukip, and Eurosceptics more generally, is that the ageing voters more inclined to support them are much more likely to vote. But ultimately both have the same problem: how can they address their lack of appeal with the young? If they do not find some compelling answers, changing demographics could destroy their ambitions at the ballot box.
I covered similar ground in a post here in 2011 which looked at the effect of age on views about Europe, international aid and the death penalty. I wondered:
Whether older people’s attitudes reflect biologically-driven changes in psychological outlook due to ageing, or past levels of formal education [is] something that will become clearer over the next few decades. Perhaps by the time people reach 60 it is the experience gained in the ‘University of Life’ which counts.
Whitemore didn’t actually answer the question he posed, perhaps out of deference to the elderly demographics of the Telegraph’s readership (the paper if not the website, though the majority of those who provide comments on the latter “below the line” seem to be either senile or deranged). However, Peter Kellner has gone a long way towards answering it on the Guardian Comment Network in an interesting analysis of how voters seem to have switched between parties since 2010. He made “a rough estimate of the number of supporters of each party who are likely to have died since the last election” as can be seen in the table below:

Kellner’s estimate is for the period between May 2010 and January 2014, 44 months, which is also the duration from now to September 2017, as good a guess as any for the date of the referendum. So, if there are currently 3.3 million Ukippers and the same proportion of them expire as Kellner estimated in the contingent who voted UKIP in 2010 (0.1 million in 0.9 million ie 11%), we could expect about 370, 000 of them to have popped their clogs by then. Assuming that most of the 2.4 million who have rallied to UKIP since 2010 have the same age profile as Ukippers in 2010, this answers the question as posed, but does not address the more interesting one as to how many people will be both alive and still supporting UKIP by then.

There is a problem with Whitemore’s chart in that there are not equal numbers in each of the age groups. If the areas are adjusted to correspond to the sizes of the four groups it looks like this:

and the preponderance of the older groups is brought out. However, a recent YouGov poll shows a smaller level of support for leaving, overall -3% as opposed to -10% here. In this recent poll the 40-59 age group seems markedly less opposed to the EU (-2% as opposed to -16% here).

No comments:

Post a Comment