We keep hearing that the election of Donald Trump is like Brexit only bigger. But are they really so similar? Hard data on voter breakdown in the US election and Brexit vote, shows the similarities and differences.
In a nutshell, what the Brexit vote and the US election have in common is a rural-urban split, and a split by age.
What they don’t have in common is voting by income levels – except that is for those who sit in the middle of the income scale.
The rural vote
In the UK, what the ONS refers to as rural constituencies, voted strongly in favour of Brexit. According to CLA – an organisation that represents owners of land, property and businesses in rural England and Wales, 55.3% of voters in these rural constituencies voted leave.
In the US, it was the MidWest ‘what dunnit’, while the bigger cities typically voted Clinton.
Likewise, in the UK, the capital cities voted Remain – London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.
But there is a more-subtle split.
In the US, Trump was especially popular in what they call the rust belt, regions which once had a strong manufacturing base. Take as an example, two counties near each other, Macomb County and Oakland County in Michigan. Macomb County is known as conservative, median income is $50,000 and it voted decisively in favour of Obama in the previous two elections. This time Trump won. In Oakland, median incomes are higher but it also has a more ‘new economy’ feel about it. Clinton won.
In the US, a country where it is not uncommon to see events in which people smash up Japanese cars, regions that were once manufacturing powerhouses but have not recovered from decades of structural change were more likely to vote Trump, regions that have adopted tech more enthusiastically, often voted Clinton.
We saw a similar pattern with the EU referendum. For example, Cardiff, which has an ambitious digital agenda voted remain, but South Wales and the old mining community voted Leave – a result many thought was odd as the EU had been a major funder of new projects in the region.
The vote by age
The UK referendum indicated that younger voters were far more likely to vote Remain, while in the US, this age group was much more likely to vote Clinton
Older voters in the UK were more likely to vote leave and an in the US Trump
|Voting by age, in %, EU referendum source Lord Ashcroft Polls|
|Voting by age, in %, US election, Exit Polls|
But when we look at how people voted by income, things get more complex.
|EU referendum voting by income level, by % source Lord Ashcroft Polls|
|AB (A: upper middle class, B: middle class)||57||43|
|C1 (supervisory, junior management or admin jobs)||49||51|
|C2 (skilled manual workers)||36||64|
|DE (semi-skilled or unskilled workers or the unemployed)||36||64|
|US election, voting by income level, by % Exit Polls,|
|$250,000 or more||46||48|
|$200,000 to $249,000||48||49|
|$100,000 to $249,000||47||48|
|$50,000 to $100,000||46||50|
|$30,000 to $50,000||51||42|
In the US, poorer were more likely to vote Clinton in the US, but Leave in the UK.
Only in the middle were the US and UK similar, this was the age group most strongly in favour of Trump in the US, while in the UK, it was also in favour of the Leave – just.
In the US, the vote was closer across categories. With the exception of income earners in the middle category, there was little difference.
When we look at the urban-rural split and the financial tech-dominated regions versus regions that have not recovered from the loss of heavy manufacturing jobs, we saw a more obvious split with marked similarities between Brexit and Trump voting.
But the obvious similarity relates to age.
Younger people voted decisively in favour of Remain in the UK and Clinton in the US, but older voters were far more likely to vote Leave in the UK, a smaller majority of older voters in the US voted Trump.
Bear in mind, that while the Brexit saw a small majority overall vote Leave, in the US a very small majority voted Clinton – Trump won because he gained more votes in areas that mattered as far as the electoral college is concerned. And this will clearly have affected the overall breakdown of votes by age, region and income.