Was Brexit triggered by the old and unhappy? Or by financial feelings?

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in

Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization


Federica Liberini, Andrew J. Oswald, Eugenio Proto and Michela Redoano

Publication date


On 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom voted in favour of ‘Brexit’. This paper is an attempt to understand why. It examines the micro-econometric predictors of anti-EU sentiment. The paper provides the first evidence for the idea that a key channel of influence was through a person’s feelings about his or her own financial situation. By contrast, the paper finds relatively little regression-equation evidence for the widely discussed idea that Brexit was favoured by the old and the unhappy. The analysis shows that UK citizens’ feelings about their incomes were a substantially better predictor of pro-Brexit views than their actual incomes. This seems an important message for economists, because the subject of economics has typically avoided the study of human feelings in favour of ‘objective’ data.

Volume and page numbers

161, 287-302






Politics, Public Opinion, Psychology, Elections. Electoral Behaviour, Demography, Finance and International Economic Relations


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