EU Citizens, Non-EU Citizens, and the Brexit Vote

A widely known stylized fact is that citizens in places with few immigrants are more likely to express anti-globalist views. They may be more likely to think that immigration is a threat to their well-being, or that international economic integration is a problem, or any number of related views. This observation can be found across the advanced industrial economies.

As it turns out, this stylized fact also describes the Brexit vote. Those regions with few non-UK citizens are those that voted most strongly for Brexit.

This is, of course, well-known. But Brexit is interesting because local views of Brexit might be affected by two types of migrants: EU migrants (the “Polish plumber”) and non-EU migrants (American professors, former Commonwealth citizens, and so forth). It turns out that this distinction can matter in complex ways.

One way to visualize this is the following. I estimated a regression that predicts the local level Leave vote share as a function of the size of the electorate (a rough proxy for population), EU citizen share at the local level, and English statistical region fixed effects* interacted with EU citizen share. I then did the same, but with non-EU citizen share at the local level. From this, we can predict the local Leave vote share for different levels of EU versus non-EU population share, and across different regions of England. I’ve separated those regions into four “macro” regions so that the results are easier to visualize.

For each plot, I restricted the predictions to only the observed range of the non-EU/EU citizenship percentage within each “macro” region.

The thing to look at here is cases like Yorkshire. It’s true that places with more non-EU citizens were less like to vote Leave, but also places with more EU citizens were more likely to vote Leave. The same is true in the East Midlands; and yet the exact opposite is true in the West Midlands. It’s really only in the South that the general stylized fact of “more immigrants -> more Remain” is true without reference to whether we’re talking about EU versus non-EU immigrants.

Of course, it’s always possible to show that things are more complicated than some stylized fact—that’s why they are stylized facts! But these regional differences across England might give us some leverage on the social or economic foundations of the politics of resentment, labor market competition, and related factors that drive anti-internationalism.


* I broke up London into Inner and Outer London because it makes an enormous difference.

Unrest, Violence, and Race in Papua

The past several weeks have seen sustained unrest in Indonesian Papua. The proximate cause was the shameful treatment of Papuan students living in Surabaya, East Java who were alleged to have desecrated the Indonesian flag on Indonesia’s independence day. But this is just a trigger; the issues are far deeper. Today’s article in the Sydney Morning Herald provides a good overview of the historical context and contemporary problems. The protests in cities like Jayapura, Manokwari, and Sorong have left multiple people dead. The government suspended internet service in Papua for a time, and police have cracked down on protestors and militants (both real and alleged).

Over the 15 years that I’ve been blogging about Indonesian politics, Papuan affairs have been a constant theme. Below is a list of posts touching on Papua, with some background information and context that may prove useful.

The two places to watch for in-depth coverage of Papua going forward are New Mandala and IPAC. Neither has written about the protests yet, but they certainly will soon.