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Ros Taylor

February 9th, 2016

Matthew Goodwin identifies the most Eurosceptic seats in Britain


Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Ros Taylor

February 9th, 2016

Matthew Goodwin identifies the most Eurosceptic seats in Britain


Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

goodwinIn his latest post, Matthew Goodwin reveals the most Eurosceptic seats in the UK and notes the surge in anti-EU feeling in England’s eastern counties, Wales and the south-west. Conversely, Leave activists are unlikely to waste their time campaigning in London, where Remain prevails.

What are the most Eurosceptic seats in Britain?

Since we last met, a new Eurosceptic movement has launched. Grassroots Out (or Go!) is the latest effort to mobilise support for Brexit and claims that it will root its strategy around a “constituency by constituency plan”. This got me thinking. What are the most Eurosceptic seats in Britain?

There are different ways of answering this question. One way is to look in broad terms at the type of voters who are in each seat -ie to rank seats according to their share of the social groups that we know are most likely to lean toward Leave. When Caitlin Milazzo and I did this for our recent book we were left with the map below, which sorts seats according to how favourable they were likely to be to the ‘harder’ brand of Euroscepticism offered by the UK Independence Party.


As you can see, if Eurosceptics are planning to run a constituency-by-constituency campaign then the good news for them is that there is a very clear geographical pattern. They would do well, for example, to target England’s eastern and southern coasts, parts of Yorkshire, the East Midlands, Cumbria and Wales. You can download the complete rankings for seats in England and Wales. The top ten seats in England are below.

(1) Clacton – UKIP 
(2) Boston and Skegness – CON
(3) Kingston-upon-Hull East – LAB
(4) Easington – LAB
(5) Barnsley East – LAB
(6) Knowsley – LAB
(7) Doncaster North – LAB
(8) Liverpool Walton – LAB
(9) Great Yarmouth – CON
(10) Ashfield – LAB

clacton rock
Clacton rock. Photo: Miles Banbery via a Creative Commons 2.0 licence

At the general election last May all but two of these seats handed Ukip higher than average shares of the vote, from 44% in Douglas Carswell’s seat of Clacton to 21% in Gloria De Piero’s seat of Ashfield. These seats are filled with voters who share the core features of Eurosceptics – blue-collar, grey hair, financially struggling, and lacking qualifications. This is not a criticism, just a fact. Few Leave voters look like Daniel Hannan.

But these areas also look very different to those at the other end of the spectrum, where the Leave campaigns will likely encounter hostile voters. The ten least receptive seats are all in London – like Chelsea and Fulham, and Hampstead and Kilburn. Beyond the capital the least receptive seats in England tend to be younger, urban and more affluent or ethnically secure – Bristol West, Manchester Withington, Cambridge, Birmingham Ladywood, Sheffield Central, Reading East, Leeds North East, St Albans, Oxford East and Sheffield Hallam, to name only a few.

But this is also only way to cut the numbers.

If you download the spreadsheet you can compare our rankings of the most Eurosceptic seats with those compiled by another team of academics. Rather than look only at the types of voters in seats, Chris Hanretty and his colleagues combined information on how voters plan to vote at the referendum with information on demographics to produce an estimate of the likely vote for Brexit in each seat. Many of the most Eurosceptic seats also appear toward the top of our own list – filled with the same types of voters. Here’s their map. All but one of the ten most Eurosceptic seats also appear in the top third of our own list, revealing how the data are pointing toward very similar territory.

(1) Clacton – UKIP
(2) Castle Point – CON
(3) Great Yarmouth – CON
(4) Christchurch – CON
(5) Blackpool North and Cleveleys – CON
(6) Boston and Skegness – CON
(7) South Holland and The Deepings – CON
(8) North East Cambridgeshire – CON
(9) Waveney – CON
(10) Aldridge-Brownhills – CON

There are similar findings across both lists.

First, between one-third and nearly half of the top hundred seats are scattered along Eastern England. In earlier years the Eurosceptic movement was often most active in the south west but today it’s real heartland is England’s east coast. Second, the data also point to similar clusters of Eurosceptic potential in the Midlands, Yorkshire, and the North West, in struggling left behind areas like Blackpool, Bolton, Boston and Skegness, Don Valley, Dudley, Louth and Horncastle, Mansfield, Rotherham, Scunthorpe Stoke, Walsall and Wigan. Third, the Greater London area is not a complete desert for Eurosceptics. Outer-east areas feature towards the top of both lists, like Dagenham and Rainham, Hornchurch and Upminster, and Romford. Fourth, our number crunching also flags a cluster of fifteen seats in Wales that look potentially receptive to the Brexit camp – such as Rhondda, Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil, which goes some way to explaining why Ukip looks set to enter the Welsh Assembly this year.

So, what does all of this mean?

In what the polls suggest will be a close referendum race how the campaigns use data and target their resources could make all the difference. Inexperienced movements have a habit of targeting the wrong areas. There would be little point in Remain activists spending evenings and weekends in Clacton, or Leave activists traipsing around the leafy streets of Highgate and Hampstead. Instead, both would do well to redirect their energy and focus onto territory where they can mobilise a much larger number of their supporters. After all, turnout could make all the difference. And, lastly, before anybody asks, we will come back to these data in a little while to explore the Remain heartland too.

Forthcoming events

  • On February 24 Professor John Curtice and Matthew Goodwin will be discussing public attitudes toward the referendum at Portcullis House, House of Commons. Register here
  • On February 26 Chatham House will also be hosting a breakfast briefing for journalists on the referendum, featuring Anthony Wells and Professor Sara Hobolt. Journalists can register here.

Other evidence-based blogs

  • An excellent blog on that new YouGov poll, showing Leave ahead
  • A new survey of MPs’ attitudes toward EU referendum via UK in a Changing Europe
  • Simon Hix asks – Do UK MEPs get key positions of power in Europe?
  • In the Telegraph I explore why the referendum campaigns should avoid going negative
  • In this helpful report, Rob Ford and Anthony Heath examine public opinion on migrant benefits.

An earlier and shorter version of this blogpost appeared in The Times Red Box. It represents the views of the author and not those of BrexitVote, nor the LSE.

Matthew Goodwin is Professor of Politics and International Relations at the University of Kent and an ESRC Senior Fellow on the UK in a Changing Europe programme. In 2015, he won the Paddy Power Political Book of the Year for Revolt on the Right, co-authored with Robert Ford.

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Ros Taylor

Posted In: Campaigns | Featured | UK politics


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