The BBC uncovers ‘devastating evidence’ linking support for Brexit with being a primitive Neanderthal
The latest act in the BBC’s ongoing effort to catastrophise Brexit and discredit Brexiteers is this delightful article from last week’s News Magazine, exploring the link between Brexit and the death penalty:
Immediately after the vote, commentators said it was about class – about professionals living and working in big cities, especially London (who voted Remain), versus working class people in smaller towns, especially in the north of England (who voted Leave).
So you would think that if you know that someone is working class and has a low income, you’d be able to confidently guess they voted Leave. But according to Stian Westlake, Head of Research at the think tank Nesta, this is not the case.
“If you look at someone’s class status and their income, and you try and use that to guess whether or not they voted Remain, it turns out it’s not that much better than guesswork. It gives you around 55% accuracy, and obviously a guess would give you 50% accuracy,” Westlake says.
His figures come from the British Election Study, in which around 24,000 people were asked about their voting intentions in the EU referendum.
Respondents to the survey were also questioned on their views on other things, such as the death penalty – and this provides a much better indicator of how people voted, Westlake argues.
“If you look at attitudes to questions such as, ‘Do you think criminals should be publicly whipped?’ or ‘Are you in favour of the death penalty?’ – those things are much better predictors, and you get over 70% accuracy,” he says.
“To give you an idea of how good a predictor that is, if you ask someone, ‘Do you think there is too much European integration?’ – which you’d think is a pretty good indicator – that only gets you to the high 70s. So if you can get to 71% or 72% prediction from these questions about traditional values, then it suggests it is that, rather than income or class, that is really driving the vote for Leave.”
So now Brexiteers are violent savages, dangerous authoritarian people who cannot keep their base desire for retribution and “an eye for an eye” under control. Brexit Britain will see a return of the stocks, the scold’s bridle and even the gallows in the town square if we get our way, the BBC is effectively telling its readers.
And of course this fits in with everything that Remainers like to think about themselves, and tell themselves about those who want Britain out of the European Union. To their minds, Remainers are compassionate, progressive, outward-looking, tolerant and fair, while Leavers are sneaky, conniving, closed-minded, inward-looking, highly intolerant and “post-factual”. Remainers want to hug a hoodie. We, apparently, want to bash their heads in with a brick and hang them from lamp posts as a warning to others.
Except that in their haste to demonise Brexiteers, the BBC neglected to mention the percentage of Remainers who also back the authoritarian policies cited in the survey. And there is a reason for this – to some extent, the data actually exonerates Brexiteers, while painting Remainers in an equally bad light, if not worse.
This chart plots satisfaction with EU democracy (a reasonable indicator of general euroscepticism given the fact that sovereignty and democracy were given as the primary motivation for voting to leave, according to post-referendum polling) against strength of agreement with the death penalty. The data is taken from the British Election Study, and and can be freely found and researched on their website.
And what we see here is that of those who strongly oppose the death penalty, over 62% are eurosceptic (that is, either very dissatisfied or a little dissatisfied with EU democracy). Of those who disagree with the death penalty a little less staunchly, over 65% are eurosceptic.
Admittedly, more staunch eurosceptics take up a much larger proportion of those who agree or strongly agree with the death penalty. But the europhiles (taken as those fairly satisfied or very satisfied with EU democracy) hardly cover themselves in glory as principled death penalty abolitionists. The proportion of europhiles either against or strongly against the death penalty struggles to break much above 20%.
This would seem to suggest that however much the BBC’s “traditionalist” narrative may play a part, there are also a significant number of very firm eurosceptic death penalty opponents who supported Brexit. That would make sense. This blog is one of them, as is nearly every other Brexiteer I happen to know. But why report on the principled band of anti death penalty Brexiteers when you can just play to the gallery and point at those eurosceptics who want to bring back hanging? It just fits so neatly into the tidy little narrative about primitive, left-behind idiots voting for Brexit against their own supposed interests.
But perhaps if the data tells us anything at all, it is that people with strong opinions on either side of the death penalty issue (and perhaps other issues too) tended to favour leaving the European Union, while Britain’s army of vague, wishy-washy and noncommittal people wanted us to remain, guided as always by their dithering uncertainty and fear of change. After all, when it came to strongly disagreeing (or even strongly agreeing) with the death penalty, Britain’s EU cheerleaders are almost nowhere to be seen. That hardly fits with their sanctimonious claim to be more open and tolerant than the rest of us.
But that doesn’t quite fit the BBC’s preferred narrative. Far better to concentrate on the spike and declare all Brexiteers to be violent, vengeful authoritarians. That is the narrative the BBC loves to tell and Remainers love to hear, so that is the narrative which we will continue to get.
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