`LONDON - ‘Smarter’ people were more likely to have voted to remain in the European Union, a new study has claimed.
Research from the University of Bath’s School of Management found that cognitive skills including memory, verbal fluency, fluid reasoning and numerical reasoning, were correlated with how people decided to vote.
The research used a nationally representative sample of 6,366 individuals from 3,183 couples collected as part of a large survey called Understanding Society.
They found that, of the people with the lowest cognitive ability, only 40% voted Remain, whereas 73% of those with the highest cognitive ability voted Remain.
“This study adds to existing academic evidence showing that low cognitive ability makes people more susceptible to misinformation and disinformation,” lead author Dr Chris Dawson said.
He added that certain evidence provided to the public by the pro-leave campaign leading up to the referendum was “contradictory, false and often fraudulent”, and that “people with lower cognitive ability and analytical thinking skills find it harder to detect and discount this type of information”.
“Low cognitive ability can lead to decision errors and many Leave voters are now saying they regret their choice,” co-author of the study, Dr Paul Baker said.
“The study highlights how the rise in misinformation and disinformation, and people’s inability to counter this information, is undermining the democratic process and can be used to influence democratic outcomes.’”
The study looked at couples living in the same household to equalise people’s experiences, as well as controlling for demographic information such as political beliefs, education level, income and newspaper readership.
It found that having a high cognitive ability partner increased the likelihood of voting remain, and that the person with the highest cognitive ability in the couple was more likely to vote Remain.
The researchers did however emphasise that it is important to understand that findings are based on average differences between large groups of voters.
“Depending on which side of the debate you fall, reading this may fill you with anger or joy. However, both these emotions are an error of judgement,” said Dr Dawson.
Approximately 36% of leave voters were determined to have a higher cognitive ability than the average remain voter, the study also found.
He said: “It is important to understand that our findings are based on average differences: there exists a huge amount of overlap between the distributions of Remain and Leave cognitive abilities. “