Free Maths Lesson for Angry Young Remainers..


One of the current moans sweeping Facebook is the assertion that those who have the longest to live most wanted to remain.  So what?  Many posters go on to cite inter-generational conflict and, as I found yesterday with a group of school leavers, many are disgusted that “old people” voted to leave.  Many Facebook posters are harping on about pensioners voting selfishly in their own interest, at the expense of the young.  What utter drivel.

Let’s start with what is obvious to any parent or grandparent, but not it seems to a callow youth.  The single, overriding preoccupation of any parent’s life is the welfare of his or her children and grandchildren.  It is remarkably unlikely that any, let alone the overwhelming majority, of them would make so momentous a decision as Brexit without deep reflection on whether the future of the UK was brighter (i.e. wealthier) in or out.  The proposition that a this was a selfish vote by coffin dodgers is absurd as most coffin dodgers have children and/or grandchildren.  It’s also not immediately clear how voting one way or the other will have different effects for different aged Britons – sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

The published numbers are:

Age Band Median Age Voter Remain (%) Voted Leave (%) Life Expectancy Years to Live
18-24 21 64 24 90 69
25-49 37 45 39 89 52
50-64 57 35 49 88 31
65+ 73 33 58 89 16

In the two most populous age bands the error is actually larger than the lead.  The poll is pretty meaningless.  It would be possible to get a better answer by taking the actual vote and using constituency composition data from the most recent census, but to get anywhere with that one would have to assume a uniform correlation of vote with age. The small print says this is from a Yougov phone poll of 1652 people on 17th-19th June and with ONS data on life expectancy.  So it is actually old data from a poll that is a week out of date and with a sample size that is risible.  Note that it also misses the errors / don’t knows.  I’ve added them back below.

Just for the sake of it, let’s assume the poll is right – take it seriously and two more columns, experience as an adult (i.e. life after 18) an adult years living in EEC/EC/EU (i.e. time as an adult or time since 1975).  Here is the table.  I have also added the don’t knows proportionately.  Here’s the table, and a graph.

Age Band Years as Adult in EU Probabilty of voting leave (%)
18-24 3               24
25-49 19               45
50-64 39               57
65+ 41               63

Out versus Age

So what the Facebook post shows is that people who have more experience of EU actually want out of it as they believe that their future and, more relevantly, that of their offspring will be better out.   There are sound reasons for this which have been rehearsed endlessly on this blog and elsewhere.  The more experience you have of the EU the more you want to leave. 

Obviously the data is not hard enough, or suitably banded, to get much more than that.  It may be a coincidence, but the Maastricht Treaty, (which created EU and the Euro), was signed 24 years ago in 1992 coincides with the point at which 50% of adults want out.  More data required.

All I can politely say to the young ranting at me and my generation is go and do some maths.  Then consider the possibility that you are wrong.  Then accept that the decision is made anyway and get on with making it work.