Less intelligent people likely voted for Brexit

Former British Prime Minister David Cameron walks outside 10 Downing Street in London, Britain November 13, 2023. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

People are becoming increasingly aware that Brexit may not have been a wise decision. A recent poll released by a British polling company indicates that only a fifth of those who originally supported leaving the EU now believe that Brexit has been successful. This raises the question: why did more than half of the population vote in favour of it?

New research proposes that individuals who voted to leave the EU are more likely to have lower cognitive abilities compared to those who voted to remain. This susceptibility to disinformation and misinformation may have influenced their decision. Researchers at the University of Bath discovered that 73% of British voters in the top 10% of cognitive performance opted to remain, while only 40% of those in the bottom 10% wanted to stay in the EU. The data analysed came from 3,183 UK couples.

Even after controlling for factors such as income, education, and age, the correlation persisted, albeit less strongly. The cognitive test performance of Remain voters was consistently higher, even in couples where spouses voted differently.

According to the study’s authors, the results suggest that low cognitive ability makes people more susceptible to misinformation and disinformation. Examples include misleading claims about a £350 million Brexit windfall for the NHS or the promise of “taking back control of our borders.”

While intelligence is just one factor influencing voting choices, the researchers acknowledge its plausible role, underlining that these findings apply at a population level and not on an individual basis. People should not react emotionally based on their political affiliations. Also, there is a need for people to be able to recognize the growing sophistication of fake news in today’s information landscape.

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