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Money Marketing: Bregret at leisure?

30th June 2016

The world is reeling after our momentous decision to leave the European Union. Yet it seems many did not know what they had voted for - or indeed why. In the hours after the result was announced, Google searches for “What happens if we leave the EU?” tripled. “What is the EU?” was the second most-Googled question.

Welcome to a nation of “Bregret”. Some have publicly admitted they intended to use a “protest vote” in the belief the UK was certain to remain, while electoral services workers have reported calls from people asking if they could change their decision.

The “I’m not sure what it is, but I’m against it” factor should never be under-estimated, though it seems most pollsters and politicians did. It is a mistake to believe people know all the facts (or even care about them) before they decide. In fact, most of the time, we decide and then figure out if we need to get some facts to justify our instinct.

According to American author Seth Godin, one of the major causes of “uninformed dissent” is the tribal imperative that people like us do things like this. No need to figure out the detail, understand the consequences or ask hard questions.

Instead, focus on the emotional and cultural elements and think about the facts later.

Or, in the case of 18-24-year-olds, make a lot of noise (both before and after the event) but do absolutely nothing when the time for action is here.

While millenials bemoan baby boomers for sticking their middle finger up at them and the rest of Europe, and media outlets produce snappy infographics showing 18-24s voted emphatically (in the range of 72-75 per cent) in favour of remain, one important piece of information is missing: two in three of that demographic could not be bothered to vote.

Indeed, despite young people having to live with the decision of the referendum for an average of 69 years, a shockingly dismal 36 per cent of 18-24-year-olds braved the rain. Compare that with turnout among the rest of the electorate, which averaged 77.8 per cent:

• 35-44-year-olds: 72 per cent

• 45-54-year-olds: 75 per cent

• 55-64-year-olds: 81 per cent

• 65-plus-year-olds: 83 per cent

Social media is alight with indignation that young people have been let down by their grandparents – but they just did (rightly or wrongly) what they are democratically entitled to do. Young people did not. Had they done so the outcome would most likely have been different.