Brexit 'opening up new fault lines in political outlooks'

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Age and education are now key dividing lines between voters along with left and right-wing outlooks, new research says.

Brexit has shaken up traditional politics and helped create a new distinction between social liberals and social conservatives, according to a study by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen).

Social conservatives fear that immigration threatens British culture and voted to leave the EU, while social liberals like living in a more diverse society brought about by immigration and voted to remain, according to the research.

EU and Union flags
(Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Younger voters and graduates tend to be social liberals, older people and those with few, if any, educational qualifications, tend to be social conservatives, NatCen found.

The study broke the electorate down into six groups which include "comfortable Britain", which makes up 25.5% of voters and is made up of mostly older people in professional occupations and who own their own home. They typically have relatively right-wing views, but are not especially concerned about immigration.

The "traditional working class" account for 14% of the electorate and tend to be older people who are relatively left-wing but are not especially socially liberal.

People with English and British flags
(Jeremy Durkin/PA)

Three of the groups are distinguished primarily by their age or educational background, and by how socially liberal or conservative they are.

These include the "liberal elite", making up 17.6% of voters who are mostly graduates in professional occupations who are socially liberal and voted heavily to remain in the EU.

The "liberal youth" (15.7%) are mostly younger people in middle-level non-graduate jobs and tend to think of themselves as working class. They are relatively liberal and positive about immigration.

Supporters hold up European Union flags as a rainbow forms in the sky
(Ben Birchall/PA)

The "socially left behind cohort" (10.9%) are middle-aged and older working class voters who are not particularly right-wing but are socially conservative, concerned about immigration, nearly all of whom voted Leave.

The final group is the "young, disaffected just about managing", who make up 16.3% of the electorate, but are disengaged from politics.

NatCen's Roger Harding said: "Brexit has dramatically shifted political loyalties. We are now a country increasingly divided by age and social liberalism versus conservatism, rather than simply class or the economics of left versus right.

"While the Conservatives are predominately the party of Leave voters and Labour of Remain, each has substantial minorities of the other side in their corner.

"Both parties are in for a tough time keeping their Leave and Remain voters on board as we move from the warm words of Brexit to hard choices."