'Brexit identity' more important to voters than party allegiance

The 2016 referendum left the UK deeply divided.

    A pro-Brexit protester brandishes a sign near pro-Europe demonstrators outside the Houses of Parliament [Dylan Martinez/Reuters]
    A pro-Brexit protester brandishes a sign near pro-Europe demonstrators outside the Houses of Parliament [Dylan Martinez/Reuters]

    Voters in the United Kingdom care less about political parties than they do about having voted Leave or Remain in the 2016 referendum to withdraw from the European Union, according to new research.

    The 52 percent - 48 percent vote to leave the bloc has left the country deeply polarised, academics at Kings College London suggested on Monday, adding that the way people voted on Europe has come to define their politics more than party allegiance. 

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    The university's Policy Institute found that 55 percent of Britons aged 18-75 said they "very strongly" identify with their Leave or Remain Brexit affiliation - up from 44 percent on last year - in the closing stages of a bitter general election campaign in which the UK's departure from the EU has been the central focus.

    In contrast, just over a fifth said they very strongly identify with their political party of choice.

    Professor Bobby Duffy, director of the Policy Institute, said it was evidence that the electorate's views on Brexit were continuing to trump party affiliation.

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be hoping the evidence bears out in Thursday's general election as he looks to take down Labour's "red wall" of constituencies across the Midlands and the north of England.

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    He is hoping traditional Labour supporters in Leave-voting seats such as Great Grimsby and West Bromwich East will put their desire to see Brexit done before their party affiliation.

    The data also unearthed negative feelings between party supporters and those backing rival parties.

    Asked, on a scale of 0-100 - with zero being as cold as possible and 100 being warm - how they consider the other party, Labour supporters gave Conservatives just 15 out of 100 and Tories gave Labour a score of 18.

    "These findings provide more evidence for the idea that British politics has changed dramatically in recent years," Duffy said.

    "People's Brexit identities have got stronger and continue to trump party affiliations, while our views of people on the 'other side' of political debates have become very negative."

    The findings were produced after conducting surveys with more than 2,000 adults aged 18-75 between November 27 and 29.

    SOURCE: News agencies