LDV’s Top Twelve of 2016: #2 How did our constituencies vote in the EU Referendum?

Over the next few days, we will be publishing our twelve most read posts of 2016. Many thanks to the 533,000 people who have visited the site over the past tumultuous 12 months. 

The runner-up is Duncan Brack’s analysis of how the seats in which there is most Lib Dem interest voted in the EU Referendum.

It’s obvious from the maps published after the referendum that several former Liberal Democrat seats voted remain – Cambridge, Bath, Cheltenham, Lewes and others. It’s equally obvious that plenty didn’t – all of them in Cornwall and Devon, for example. But because the results were counted and declared by local authority area, we haven’t been able to tell how individual constituencies voted – until now.

Chris Hanretty, Reader in Politics at the University of East Anglia, has tried to estimate how all the 574 Parliamentary seats in England and Wales voted (it’s a reasonable assumption that all or almost all Scottish seats voted remain). He’s taken each council area result and applied demographic factors – average age in the area, the proportion of residents with degrees, average income, etc. – which we know are strongly associated with voting leave or remain to break it down to constituency levels. He can’t be precise, of course, but his model fits reasonably well the results in the 26 local authority areas which are also parliamentary constituencies.

He expresses the result as an estimated leave vote with a prediction interval (i.e. a range of outcomes, since we can’t be precise) on either side. You can see his reasoning, and download the full spreadsheet here.

Based on his calculations, this is how all the seats Liberal Democrats won at the 2010 election break down, in descending order of the remain vote (seats we hold now are in bold):

Definitely remain (entire range of outcomes more than 50 per cent remain vote): Bristol West, Hornsey & Wood Green, Manchester Withington, Cardiff Central, Twickenham, Cambridge, Bermondsey & Old Southwark, Bath, Sheffield Hallam, Leeds North West, Cheltenham, Kingston & Surbiton, Norwich South, Ceredigion

Probably remain (outcome range extends to leave vote, but mainly remain): Portsmouth South, Cheadle, Brent Central, Westmorland & Lonsdale, Colchester, Lewes

Probably leave (outcome range extends to remain vote, but mainly leave): Brecon & Radnorshire, Sutton & Cheam, Chippenham, Southport, Taunton Deane, Somerton & Frome, St Ives, Hazel Grove, Carshalton & Wallington, Thornbury & Yate, Wells

Definitely leave (entire outcome range more than 50 per cent leave vote): Eastbourne, Solihull, Mid Dorset & North Poole, Eastleigh, North Devon, Berwick-upon-Tweed, North Cornwall, Burnley, Torbay, Bradford East, North Norfolk, Yeovil, St Austell & Newquay, Birmingham Yardley, Redcar

Adding in the 11 Scottish seats we won in 2010 gives a total of 31 of our seats (including 5 we hold now) definitely or probably voting remain, and 26 seats (including 3 we hold now) definitely or probably voting leave. The strongest remain seats are Bristol West, with an estimated 80 per cent remain vote, or, of the seats we hold now, Sheffield Hallam, on 65 per cent; the strongest leave seats are Redcar, on 66 per cent leave, or, of the seats we hold now, North Norfolk, on 61 per cent.

Given that almost two-thirds of the seats in total (three-quarters in England and Wales) voted to leave, that’s quite a strong skew towards remain-voting areas – as we might expect – and it helps to identify some of the seats we might hope to win back at the next election on the back of pro-remain feeling.

But let’s not forget that we need to win seats in areas that voted leave too. I would expect that Liberal Democrat voters in those areas were predominantly remain, but by no means all of them were – and we also know that, overall, a third of Liberal Democrat voters voted leave.

So while I believe that Tim Farron’s declaration that Liberal Democrats see the UK’s future lying within the EU as absolutely right, we also need to respond to the concerns that drove people to vote leave – including economic and political inequality, powerlessness, the feeling that they’ve been ignored by the elites, and much more. Liberal Democrats and our predecessor parties have historically stood up for communities on the political and economic periphery of the country, and we need to keep on doing so.

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This entry was posted in From the LDV Archive.


  • paul barker 31st Dec '16 - 4:19pm

    Its worth noting that three-quarters of the seats we gained in Local byelections were in areas that voted Leave, that suggests that our strong Remain stance isnt hurting us with voters who disagree.

  • Peter Watson 31st Dec '16 - 5:27pm

    Too often debate seems to be shut down by the dismissal of those who voted for Brexit as being xenophobic, racist, old, and uneducated. I think that Duncan Brack’s final paragraph is a vital message for Lib Dems to heed, particularly:

    we also need to respond to the concerns that drove people to vote leave – including economic and political inequality, powerlessness, the feeling that they’ve been ignored by the elites, and much more.

  • Stephen Hesketh 31st Dec '16 - 6:19pm

    “… we also need to respond to the concerns that drove people to vote leave – including economic and political inequality, powerlessness, the feeling that they’ve been ignored by the elites, and much more.”

    Absolutely right Duncan Brack and Peter Watson for highlighting this again in this thread.

    There is a danger of being type-cast as a single issue party – that issue being Remain.

    Labour are presenting a wide open goal right now for a party presenting a non-socialist vision for a fair, free and open society, in which everyone is respected and valued and the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community are balanced.

    We don’t need to be spending time looking at what a Liberal Britain might look like. We have all already signed up to it when we joined this party. Lets get on and push our agenda. With Labour at sixes and sevens and the Tories regaining their mantle as the Nasty Party, it is a vision whose time has come.

  • Tony Dawson 1st Jan '17 - 1:16pm

    Hanratty’s analysis (I hesitate to call it research) shows a large number of seats within which the confidence interval appears to be too large to say anything clear concise and credible. There are also other factors outside of his knowledge. For instance, in one metropolitan Borough which I know reasonably well, the three parliamentary seats had very different levels of campaigning on the EU issue. So how, without good box-sampling, to determine where the votes came from within that borough is nigh-on impossible.

    I concur with Stephen Hesketh that the EU issue is a great issue to raise with those voters for whom it is considered highly- important. There are many other critical issues in the Uk today (eg the NHS) which many other people find rather more-important and in which a failure to put a clear position impairs us both morally and politically. We should not be a Party of one club golfers, for if we are, we shall end up perpetually being both bunkered and snookered.

  • paul barker 1st Jan '17 - 5:25pm

    The point about Brexit is that, if we are right about its effect on The Economy, then its going to be important to everyone. If Brexit is the disaster we think it will be, voters will listen to Parties that warned them & be very angry with the Parties who claimed that it would all be fine.
    Brexit isnt a “Single Issue” anymore than Scottish Independence or Global Warming are; & unlike Climate Change the consequences will be fairly immeidiate.

  • Nigel Jones 2nd Jan '17 - 6:06pm

    We are in danger of being dismissed as a single-issue party, even though Paul Barker and Martin rightly point out that Brexit affects so many important issues. Like security, defense, health services and environmental issues, it has fundamental wide-ranging effects.
    I am reminded of the time when we put a green-issue thread into all our policy statements. So maybe the trick over the next year is to present the public with statements on a variety of key issues that affect their lives, but include within each a reference to brexit ? Even so, we must avoid the simplistic error of blaming all future prediction on brexit, just as made for many years by brexiteers that everything could be blamed on the EU. The major influence of inequality on people’s lives can be tackled by our own government, whether we are in or out of the EU.

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