British Politics and the 'Education Gap'

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Polling companies and political scientists have spent the last couple of years struggling to catch up with a rapidly changing political landscape, with some successes to their credit. What were once safe predictors of people’s voting intentions, such as social class or income, no longer seem so decisive. Instead, age, education, and whether we live in a city or the countryside seem to be the most reliable indicators of political attitudes. In the ‘Brexit’ Referendum, the clearest divide between ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ voters was in their respective levels of education. Voters with a university degree voted by a margin of 68% to 32% to remain in the European Union. Voters with qualifications no higher than GCSE voted by a similar margin, 70% to 30%, to leave. The 2017 general election saw the return of two-party dominance in the polls, with the Conservatives and Labour sharing a little over 80% of the vote. Here age was the most important factor: amongst first-time voters, Labour had a lead of 47%; amongst voters over 70, the Conservatives led by 50%. Even so, education, remained a significant factor, with Labour enjoying a significant lead amongst those with a degree, and the Conservatives amongst those qualifications no higher than GCSE. In this module, we will be looking in a little more detail at the reasons why education has become a dividing line in modern British politics, and thinking about some of the implications this may have.

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