'Brexit': The Generational Divide
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. This week's vote to leave the European Union revealed the United Kingdom is divided. Scotland, for example, voted to remain. England voted to get out. And in England, people with more education and income tended to vote to stay. Those with less were likelier to want to leave, according to demographic and voting data. One of the most striking divisions in the country, though, was between generations. NPR's Frank Langfitt reports from London.
FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: The day of the vote, the online firm YouGov found that 75 percent of people aged 18 to 24 wanted to stay in the EU, while nearly two thirds of those over 65 wanted to leave.
RECORDED VOICE: This is Oxford Circus. Change here for the Bakerloo and Victoria lines.
LANGFITT: You could hear those divisions here yesterday on the London's subway, which everyone calls the Tube.
SUE COBURN: I feel absolutely fantastic, completely liberated. And this is the best thing that's happened to our country for many years.
LANGFITT: This is Sue Coburn. Coburn's in her 50s. And she voted out because she's tired of the EU telling the United Kingdom what to do.
COBURN: The people that are in charge of the European Union are complete Eurocrats (ph), bureaucrats who earn a lot of money. We don't even know who half these people are.
LANGFITT: Coburn works on a contract, which is about to end. Voting for what's called a Brexit will actually make her life harder for now.
COBURN: I've now got to try and find another job. And that's going to be - might be tough in the circumstances. But I still think we've made the right decision.
LANGFITT: So what do you do? What's your - what kind of work do you do?
COBURN: I work in banking (laughter).
LANGFITT: Wait a second. You work in banking, and you were for Brexit? Why?
COBURN: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, we have to be prepared to actually withstand the short-term risks and the effects on the market. But in the long term, I'm not just voting for myself, but from the next generation. And I think, in the long term, it's going to be a good thing.
LANGFITT: How does this help the next generation?
COBURN: We have taken back control of our borders, control of our laws and just general control.
LANGFITT: Across the aisle on the Tube is a 20-year-old art history student. Her name's Katie Nye. As she listens to our conversation, she's getting angry. After Coburn steps off the train, Nye says Coburn thinks she's helping her generation. But...
KATIE NYE: It's not what she's done. Most of the people that voted remain are my age. And all the people 16, 17, wanted to vote remain. And they don't have a say. So now the people that are older that have voted to leave now have basically messed it up for the generation below them.
LANGFITT: How'd they mess it up for you?
NYE: Just because now we've got to live with the decision that they've made.
LANGFITT: What are the consequences for you?
NYE: Well, look at it. The pound's already dropped. Travel is going to become increasingly hard. If we want to go anywhere in the European Union now, it's going to become harder and harder and more expensive for us.
ELLIE WALKER: It's not their future. It's our future. And it's our future prospects that are going to be affected.
LANGFITT: Back above ground, Ellie Walker's out at a bar at Oxford Circus. Walker is also a 20-year-old student. During the referendum, many voters said they wanted to quit the EU because of immigration and its impact on government services and the culture of the U.K. Walker thinks a lot of those voters were older people whom she says are less comfortable with ethnic difference.
WALKER: And that's just because they come from a different time. So they're, like, buying into all of that propaganda about the immigrants and about how, like, if we can get them to leave, it's all going to be better.
LANGFITT: Walker's out tonight with another student, Jessica McCoy-Campbell, who faced a generational difference in her own family. Her mom planned to vote leave.
JESSICA MCCOY-CAMPBELL: She's from a slightly different generation. So, you know, after kind of actually talking to her about it and just saying, like, this is why it affects me more than it affects you. Like, she was - she actually changed her vote to remain, like, for me. That kind of is, like, a personal victory.
LANGFITT: Based on this week's vote, though, McCoy-Campbell appears to have been more persuasive than most. Many younger voters seemed unable to change their parents' minds. Frank Langfitt, NPR News, London.
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