Leave voters felt ignored and left behind as post-Brexit poll reveals extent of economic division across UK

The independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) is calling for a renewed drive to solve poverty after the vote to leave the EU, as new research reveals the extent people feel disconnected from the UK’s economic growth and how their concerns are ignored by the political establishment.

Following last month’s Brexit vote, which revealed deep divisions in British society, a poll of over 2,000 people conducted by Populus for JRF has revealed that those who voted for Brexit feel left behind by economic growth and ignored by politicians.

In one of the first polls after Brexit, it presents a clear instruction for the next government to ensure things do not return to ‘business as usual’ for people and places who feel left behind. The new Prime Minister, Theresa May, has said her premiership will focus on uniting the country and carrying out a programme of social and economic reform.

The findings show:

  • Brexit voters are twice as likely to feel their local area doesn’t get its fair share of Britain’s economic success (23% vs 11%), and that their local area has been neglected by politicians (27% vs. 13%).
  • Brexit voters are also nearly twice as likely to believe that national government does not listen to their concerns (40% vs. 23%).
  • Brexit voters are more likely to believe wealth in the UK is not fairly distributed, and that they do not personally benefit from economic growth in the UK. In all cases, Brexit voters on low incomes were more likely to share these sentiments than those on higher incomes.
  • Brexit voters feel more optimistic about their family’s future, although poorer Brexit voters less so. Asked whether they ‘feel optimistic about my family’s future’, 48% of DE Brexit voters agreed compared to 62% among AB Brexit voters.
  • Brexit voters feel more optimistic about the country’s future, although poorer Brexit voters less so. 61% of DE Brexit voters agreed with this sentiment compared to 70% among AB Brexit voters.

This comes as separate polling for JRF shows poverty is a rising concern among the public as social mobility is perceived to be moving backwards. The poll, conducted a week before the Brexit vote and released today, revealed:

  • 90% of those polled say poverty reduction is task for central government
  • Two thirds of people think poverty has increased over the last decade
  • 52% believe it is harder for those living in poverty to escape than it was 10 years ago - compared to just 15% who say it’s easier.

JRF is calling for urgent action to tackle poverty and prevent further economic and social division. This September, JRF will be launching a comprehensive strategy to solve poverty, outlining how national and local government, businesses and citizens can each play their part.

Julia Unwin, Chief Executive of JRF, said: “The reasons for people’s vote in the referendum are complex, but this clearly shows that millions of people up and down the country feel left behind by economic growth and ignored by those elected to serve them.

“We believe Britain will be stronger if we solve poverty, giving everyone regardless of their background the chance to live a decent and secure life. Yet instead we’re seeing a real sense that it’s harder to get on than it used to be and poverty is on the rise.

“The result of the EU referendum shows we cannot afford to return to business as usual for the poorest people and places across the UK. It is vital that politicians seize this opportunity to show that they are listening, and work not only across party lines but in collaboration with business, individuals and local communities to solve poverty once and for all.”