15 March 2018 05:25:00 IST

What Brexit and Trump’s victory tells us about people

It is about education and jobs

First Brexit, and now Donald Trump’s victory at the US presidential elections.

Both results were unexpected and sent shockwaves throughout the world. It was feared that Brexit would make the UK economy vulnerable, and London might lose its position as one of the biggest financial capitals hubs of the world. But most of the voters wanted to leave. These fears remain.

Donald Trump was seen as a misogynist, racist and corrupt billionaire, infamous for his fact-free speeches. Hillary Clinton, his Democrat rival, was expected to win by a landslide. But Trump still won.

The vote for Brexit and Trump’s victory throw up interesting insights into how people think — something the best of economists and poll pundits fail to predict. It is time the elite do some more ground work.

The decisive blow

In hindsight, we have the benefit of that wisdom. In both the votes, the decisive blow was that of the less educated.

In Brexit, the graduates were the most likely to want to remain in the European Union. However, those with lower qualifications were among the most solid backers of the ‘leave’ vote. Says The Telegraph : “This was a pattern that was reflected in the results with the Brexit vote correlating with areas with high shares of people with no education. Only three of 35 areas, where more than half of residents had a degree, voted to leave the EU — South Bucks, West Devon, and Malvern Hills in the West Midlands.”

Education levels overlapped with the class. Lower the skilled, higher their worry of losing jobs because of increasing number of immigrants. Not surprisingly, areas with higher levels of people from the unskilled and semi-skilled sections of the society voted for ‘leave’.

A US repeat

The pattern is similar in the US. The most vociferous supporters of Trump are the whites who have no college degrees. They make up a dominant part of the voting age population in the US. As New York Times adds: “The largest bloc is whites who have no college degree, and the voting-age population of this group is as large as that of voting-age blacks, Hispanics and Asian-Americans combined.”

Opinion polls, before the voting took place, said that Trump had the support of 57 per cent of these voters, as against 29 per cent for Clinton. It sure looks like they turned out in great numbers to hand Trump a decisive victory.

During the campaign, Trump did remarkably well to build on the fear of this part of the population — the fear of losing their job. In more than one occasion, he alleged that India was taking away jobs from Americans, and that he will stop this if elected. It was a strategy that worked perfectly.

The Brexit vote happened in June. In the four months following that, there are reports that at least some of the voters of leave are now regretting their choice. It is tempting to say that Trump backers too might feel sorry for their decision in the coming months, or years.

But let us wait and watch.