It’s a truism that people get more conservative as they get older. A corollary of that is that older people tend to be more Eurosceptic – something emphatically borne out by the results of the Brexit referendum.
Among the arguments pushed by campaigners for a ‘People’s Vote’ (or ‘second referendum’) is that younger people overwhelmingly supported remaining in the EU, and they are the ones who will spend most of their lives dealing with Brexit, therefore they ought to get a second vote.
Some go further and suggest that there has already been enough of a demographic shift since 2016 to tilt the balance in Remain’s favour, and that we therefore ought to re-run the vote because the result would definitely be different.
An intriguing new paper provides some useful analysis of how this argument might develop in the years to come. Researchers Barry Eichengreen, Rebecca Mari and Gregory Thwaites have sifted through some 100,000 different data points spanning cohorts of voters from 1963 to 2017 to try to understand how ageing and when someone was born affects their views.
Unsurprisingly, they find that the “most UK recent cohorts are more pro-EU than their immediate (baby boomer) predecessors”. But interestingly, the generation before the boomers, i.e. those who lived through the Second World War as adults, also tended to be more pro-European — a reminder that the relationship between age and political outlook is not a simple one.