FAREED ZAKARIA, “GPS”
On Friday morning, Britain voted to withdraw from the European Union—ending a decades-old, deeply-intertwined economic and political association. Then, Scotland's First Minister proposed a vote to break away from Britain, ending the 300-year union between them. The leaders in Northern Ireland floated a similar idea. Meanwhile, the British Prime Minister announced that he would resign, the head of the opposition Labour Party might well be forced out as well—oh, and global markets lost ＄2 trillion dollars of value, all in one day.
The economic and political consequences of Brexit will become clearer in the weeks and months ahead. It seems to me there is going to be considerable remorse and regret among those who voted for Brexit without really understanding what it meant.
But however that plays out, there is one lesson that I think we can take from the Brexit referendum, regardless, that applies across the English Channel to other European countries, and across the Atlantic to the United States.
We are now watching the emergence of a new political divide that is likely to shape the politics of the Western world for the next 50 years.
Who voted for Brexit? Sixty-eight percent of Britons who did not finish high school, according to The Wall Street Journal. And who voted against it, in other words, who voted to stay in Europe? Seventy percent of college graduates.
Those who voted for Brexit were disproportionately older, white, working-class, less-educated and poorer. Those who voted to remain in Europe were younger, ethnically diverse, better-educated and better-off.
These divisions will sound familiar to Americans because, for the most part, they mirror the divide we are seeing in this presidential election.
The single factor that best predicts a Trump voter is a college degree. If you have it, you say you will vote against him; if you don't, you're for him.
The Economist recently did a survey of Europe's little Trumps—the series of populists who are gaining ground across the continent. Looking at the data, it concluded that, quote, “support for xenophobic populism is strongest among those who are older, non-university-educated, working-class, white and male.” Those against, again, tended to be younger, educated, working in service and professional jobs, and comfortable with diversity.
This divide is rooted in the central reality of our times—a world that is being reshaped by globalization and technology. These forces produce enormous advances, but also enormous disruptions, rendering obsolete companies, indeed entire industries, within just years.
But it's not just about economics. The most disruptive element of all has turned out to be not the free and fast movement of goods, services and information, but people.
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