Michael McMahon's picture
Affiliation: 
University of Warwick
Credentials: 
Associate Professor of Economics

Voting history

Are academic economists ‘in touch’ with voters and politicians?

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Question 6: Economists did not explain the reasons for this consensus in sufficiently clear language.

Do you agree this was an important reason for a majority of UK voters going against the near unanimous advice of the economics profession?

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Answer:
Agree
Confidence level:
Confident

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Question 7: Voters did not know that there was near-unanimity among economists.

Do you agree that this was an important reason for a majority of UK voters going against the near unanimous advice of the economics profession?

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Answer:
Agree
Confidence level:
Confident

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Question 4: Voters did not believe the economic arguments put forward (for example, because they thought the arguments put forward by macroeconomists with dissenting views made more sense or because voters have little faith in economists in general).

Do you agree that this was an important reason for a majority of UK voters going against the near unanimous advice of the economics profession?

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Answer:
Agree
Confidence level:
Very confident

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Question 3: Voters chose to leave the EU for non-economic reasons.

Do you agree that this was an important reason for a majority of UK voters going against the near unanimous advice of the economics profession?

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Answer:
Strongly agree
Confidence level:
Very confident

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Question 2: What do you think is the most likely reason that a majority of UK voters went against the near unanimous advice of the economics profession?

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Answer:
C. Different preferences
Confidence level:
Confident
Comment:
I find this a very hard question to answer as the five reasons are clearly interrelated. I believe that all play some role in explaining the decisions of some of the Leave voters. But, overall, I find reason A an important expected benefit of Brexit, and reason C as a key driver of the belief that there were not likely to be important economic costs for individual voters. I have opted for reason C as my answer to stay focused on the economic aspects of the voting outcome. Expanding on these thoughts a little. I think that reason A, the existence of non-economic benefits, played a major part in most Leave voters decisions. This could be a perceived benefit of stopping immigration, or gains to bringing more decisions under Westminster control, or something else. In fact, I believe that a subset of the Leave voters had a full understanding that there would, most likely, be economic costs and nonetheless thought the (mostly non-economic) benefits were worth it. Others, however, may have weighed up the perceived benefits for non-economic reasons (A) against little economic costs (reason B) and hence concluded in favour of Leave. In terms of the failure to get across economists’ assessment of the economic costs, I think that reason C is generally true (as alluded to above). As discussed in the answer to question 1, I think this is related to economists’ focus on the aggregate implications which fail to resonate with many voters. Many citizens have been told of growth and, since 2011, of recovery but they do not see any evidence for it in their lives. As such, telling them that there will be less of this much-coveted growth is no cost to them. But a belief that there would be little economic cost likely also followed from a failure to communicate clearly (reason D) and a lack of confidence of the profession (reason E).

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