EU Referendum: What voters searched for and how it affects us all

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Following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union after holding an EU Referendum, Online Ventures Group decided to compile an in-depth and unbiased report on what voters’ search habits were and how this affected us all.

We take a closer look at what voters mindsets were and how they differ depending on their demographic. Using this information we can identify certain patterns and how they have been influenced by different concerns, with the country being divided right down the middle on a number of strong issues.

A breakdown of UK voters’ search trends

Researchers from Hitwise, a leading online clickstream data collection and consumer behavioural analytics, conducted an in-depth study of the online behavior of over 3 million Brits running up to the June 23 EU Referendum.

During that time they discovered the following keywords among searches for ‘EU Referendum’ and ‘Brexit’:

table-referendumWhat do these keywords indicate?

The Hitwise data indicates that ‘expats’ are the biggest concern among ‘EU Referendum’ searchers, while ‘house prices’ are at the top of ‘Brexit’ queries. This may suggest that Brexit voters are concerned about their families and their living situation depending on the outcome of the vote.

‘Brexit’ is a term which is favoured by voters in the Leave camp. The findings above infer that these searchers’ motivations are connected to the immigration policy, while the economy is closely linked with searchers leaning towards the stay camp.  

It’s interesting to note that the same search terms appear in both EU Referendum and Brexit search results, albeit at varying levels of interest. Looking at the extremes of the data, we can see that EU Referendum searches are mainly interested in topics such as “Holiday” and “Children,” while Brexit leans towards “ISIS” and “War”.

How the demographics affected the vote

Now that Britain has voted to leave the European Union, we can see how different demographic groups impacted on the result.

Everything from age, class, education and more has been considered, with certain patterns indicating how parts of the UK voted in the EU Referendum.


According to a YouGov exit poll (as demonstrated in the table below), those voting to Remain a part of the European Union were more prominent in younger voters. 75% of voters aged 18-24 voted to Remain, while only 39% of over 65’s opted to do the same.

As you can see from the search terms above, “students” and “children” are two of the most popular search terms for those in the EU Referendum camp, indicating that they may have more of a concern over age.

Source: YouGov

Source: YouGov


Levels of education had a varying impact on the way we voted in the EU Referendum too. The polls indicate that those with a university degree were most likely to remain in the EU, while those of a GCSE or equivalent were likely to back Leave.  

Again, the term “students” is something those looking at EU Referendum are interested in, which also happens to be a major talking point for the Remain campaigners.


One of the major driving points of the vote came down to class, with this area strongly overlapping that of education. Those with a DE social class – people with semi-skilled and unskilled manual occupations, unemployed and low grade jobs – favoured the Brexit vote.

Just three of the top fifty areas with the highest share of voters with DE class backgrounds voted Remain.

Those favouring the term “Brexit” have indicated that the “workers” are a topic of preference in their searches. Job security is a highly talked about subject for the Leave campaign.


Source: NOMIS


One of the main arguments for the Leave campaigners surrounded that of the country’s immigration policy. It was argued that the current level of migration was too high and needed addressing, so it comes as no surprise that the Remain campaign was more favourable with Britain’s immigration population.

London has one of the UK’s highest immigration levels, yet the city voted overwhelmingly to Remain – with 60% of voters choosing to Remain.

Again, the terms “immigration” and “migrants” are more likely associated with Brexit. These are two of the main policies of the Leave campaign.


The media is one of the biggest influencers of public opinion throughout the world, with readership among some of the country’s most popular newspapers siding with their apparent views.

YouGov data indicates that readers of broadsheet newspapers The Guardian and The Times favoured a Remain vote, while tabloid newspapers like the Daily Mail, The Sun and the Daily Express preferred Leave.


Source: YouGov

What does this mean for the digital industry?

Following the result of the EU Referendum, there has been a lot of concern and uncertainty surrounding the country’s businesses and economy. Although the final consequences of Brexit remain unknown, UK companies trading with EU citizens must continue to respect the decision and their rights.

Frank McKenna, founder of Downtown In Business, wrote a piece earlier this year on huddled in which he argued whether or not we should remain a part of the EU. He discussed the possibility of leaving and how abandoning the EU will “leave our international status and economy in uncertainty.”

Nevertheless, the digital industry is special as it focuses on online interactions. As a world leader in digital and data-driven business, we would hope the UK will continue to drive the job market and economic growth.

Everything you need to know about the EU Referendum

This section is designed to help you understand the next steps now that the UK has voted to Leave the EU. All facts and figures were taken from an article on the BBC, entitled The UK’s EU referendum: All you need to know.

What happened?

The Government held a referendum – a vote in which everyone of voting age can take part – on Thursday 23 June, to decide whether or not the UK should Leave the European Union.

The Leave vote won by 52% to 48%.

71.8% of UK citizens turned out to vote, with more than 30 million people voting. This was the highest turnout in a UK-wide vote since the 1992 general election.

How the vote was decided

Source: BBC

Source: BBC

What exactly is the European Union?

The European Union (EU) is an economic and political partnership involving 28 European countries, which was initially founded in the wake of World War II. The idea was that countries would benefit from trading with each other and prevent any further outbreaks of war.

Since then it has grown to become a “single market” allowing goods and people to move freely, as if it were a single country. It has its own currency, parliament and rules which affect how its members are run.

What happens now?

For the UK to officially leave the EU it has to invoke an agreement which is called Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

This can be a long and drawn-out process which may take a number of years to finalise. Both the UK and EU have to agree and negotiate terms of exit and this could have a major effect on both parties in the future.

How does the result of the EU Referendum affect us?

The EU Referendum results have stunned the world and left Britain in a situation it has never faced before. Whichever side of the debate you are on, whether you voted to Remain or Leave the European Union, it is clear that the UK is entering a period of uncertainty.

In the days and hours following the result, there was a marked trend in Britons Googling queries such as “What is the EU?” and “What will happen now we’ve left the EU?” indicating that voters have no idea what will happen next.

Google Trends data isn’t representative of the total number of searches for a term, but rather an indication of searches over a period of time. However data from AdWords, which provides a more accurate figure for search terms, shows that the 250% increase actually amounts to around 1,000 people.

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About Dane Hume

Dane joined the Content Team in October 2015 before jetting off for a week to Copenhagen. When he isn't travelling the world, he can usually be seen at obscure gigs, watching Ryan Gosling films and making terrible dad jokes. He is also partial to a rum, football and pursuing his dreams of being a stay at home mum.

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