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Lauren Carroll
By Lauren Carroll June 26, 2016

Tim Kaine on Brexit vote: Young people voted to stay, old people voted to leave

Since the United Kingdom’s stunning vote to leave the European Union, political observers have wondered what the ramifications will be in the United States, especially what it will mean for the 2016 election.

On June 26, Meet the Press host Chuck Todd asked Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., for his take on Britain’s exit (Brexit).

Kaine, believed to be on Hillary Clinton’s shortlist for vice president, said the United States has to maintain its ties with Europe and the United Kingdom. He also noted the generational gap among those who voted to stay in the European Union and those who voted to leave.

"Young voters, those under 50, especially millennials, overwhelmingly voted to stay," Kaine said. "And it was older voters who voted to leave."

The United Kingdom voted to leave the union 52 percent to 48 percent, and it seems generally understood that older generations pushed the "leave" campaign over the threshold toward a win. But how do the numbers actually stack up?

Usually, journalists and others rely on exit polling to learn about demographic breakdown of votes and also to call the results of an election before all ballots have been counted. However, there were no official exit polls from the Brexit vote, in part because of the difficulty of constructing a good poll on such a rare referendum.

However, we did find an unofficial exit poll of more than 12,000 people, conducted by Michael Ashcroft, a British former politician and businessman who also conducts public polls. His Brexit findings support Kaine’s claim.

According to Ashcroft, who supports Brexit, a majority of voters 44 years old and younger voted to remain, while those 45 and older voted to leave. (Kaine specifically mentioned voters 50 and younger, and this is as close as Ashcroft’s poll gets to that bracket.)

Kaine also said millennials were especially enthusiastic about remaining in the European Union, and he’s correct. Those between 18-24 years old voted 73 percent against Brexit, and those between 25-34 years old voted 62 percent to stay, according to Ashcroft’s poll.

That’s in stark contrast to voters 65 and over who voted 60 percent in favor of leaving the European Union.

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Ashcroft’s polling is in line with the results of surveys conducted in advance of the vote. "Call your nan!" was a pitch in the last days of the "stay" campaign, pushing youngsters to try and flip their grandparents.

The Wall Street Journal analyzed and consolidated polling from several agencies and found that among those polled, people aged 18-24 opposed Brexit 60 percent, compared to 20 percent in favor, while the rest were undecided or were not planning to vote. Among those aged 24-49, 45 percent wanted to remain, while 39 percent favored leaving.

The balance flipped among older groups, with 48 percent of those aged 50-64 supporting Brexit, while 42 percent opposed. And 60 percent of those aged 65 or older supported Brexit, and just 34 percent wanted to remain in the European Union.

In further support of the generational gap, the Telegraph found that areas with a higher concentration of people over the age of 65 tended to have a higher percentage of people voting in favor of Brexit compared to areas with a lower concentration of older voters.

In light of this split, many young people in Britain are now expressing frustration that an older generation has made a monumental decision about the future, yet it’s the younger people who will spend many more years of their lives living with that decision.

British millennials have only ever known the United Kingdom as part of a larger European community, as it joined the the European Union’s precursor more than 40 years ago, noted Cassie Werber, a Britain-based writer, in Quartz. They’re used to the freedom to work and travel throughout Europe, as well as the presence of many different cultures in their own country, particularly in a post-Soviet world.

"By the time we were born, the U.K. already had become a country in which people with widely diverse heritages coexisted, for the most part in peace," Werber wrote.

Our ruling

Kaine said of the Brexit referendum, "Young voters, those under 50, especially millennials, overwhelmingly voted to stay. And it was older voters who voted to leave."

Based on the best polling we have, all signs point to a significant generational divide on the question of whether the United Kingdom should have remained in the European Union. It’s clear as day that millennials — those about 34 or younger — favored remaining. It seems that those between 35-50 slightly favored staying, too, while older generations heavily favored Brexit.

The only caveat is that we don’t have official exit polls to support Kaine’s claim. For that reason, we rate Kaine’s claim Mostly True.

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Tim Kaine on Brexit vote: Young people voted to stay, old people voted to leave

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