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Polls: Media’s ‘Xenophobia’ Claim About Brexit Doesn’t Add Up

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Media outlets have accused United Kingdom “Leave” voters of xenophobia for wanting more control over Britain’s borders. But recent polling suggests immigration was not their main concern.

In a poll published Friday by British pollster Lord Ashcroft, it was revealed that nearly half of voters in favor of leaving the European Union cited “the principle that decisions about the U.K. should be taken in the U.K.” as their single biggest reason for wanting the exit. While half of Leave voters cited U.K. autonomy as their primary concern, only one-third cited border control or immigration.

Vox’s Zack Beauchamp wrote this morning that Brexit “wasn’t about economics. It’s about xenophobia.” In his article, Beauchamp references an encounter with a drunken man at a pub in London who “accosted” Beauchamp and his girlfriend. The British man that Beauchamp labels “Bob” apparently complained about criminals getting into Britain and asked the writer, “how are my kids supposed to get jobs?”

Later in the article, the writer cites data that Britain’s foreign-born population has more than doubled from 3.8 million in 1993 to 8.3 million in 2014, and that EU rules “restrict the ability of member states to bar migration from other EU member states.”

Murtaza Hussain of The Intercept labels the Leave supporters as “forthrightly xenophobic.” Hussain links to an Intercept colleague’s article which contains a “Leave.EU” tweet.


Hussain claims the picture represents xenophobia because of a Pakistani flag above the EU flag in the satirical picture.

According to Ashcroft’s poll, some Leave supporters’ primary issue with the EU was concern with British influence on “how the EU expanded its membership or its powers in the years ahead.” A smaller group of Brexit advocates listed “trade and the economy” as their main reason for wanting out of the EU.

For “Remain” voters, “the economy, jobs and prices” were the primary concern of 43 percent of voters, with market access, isolation from neighbors, and “a strong attachment to the EU and its shared history, culture and traditions” making up the rest.

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