I don’t know enough about British politics to know how to feel about the so-called Brexit. But I certainly know enough about American social media to know how my demographic is supposed to feel about the so-called Brexit. We’re supposed to feel that it’s a moronic hate crime perpetrated by racists, who didn’t understand and never believed in what they were voting for.
There are problems with each of these statements — they may be true, and may not, but they’re almost certainly oversimplifications, and I’d like to look at that last one, because although one common argument we all love is: “People who disagree with me don’t really disagree with me, they were just pretending to” — “No one really likes modern art,” is perhaps the original formulation — this argument is almost always wrong.
This article, which hints that huge numbers of Brexit voters voted against their desires for the lols or something, was quite popular in the rounds, for example. But although the “best of” headline suggests that they were culling from innumerable examples, the first on their list and the fifth are actually the same person (one a primary source, the other a secondary source reacting to it); it was his “I didn’t think my vote would count” statement that started the Brexit regret fad.
The sixth example (of six) is the headline from one of an endless series of very nearly identical articles (“The British are frantically Googling what the E.U. is, hours after voting to leave it”), presumably selected because it has the loaded word “frantically” in the headline and does not mention what some of the other articles mention: that google does not know if these googlers are those who abstained from the vote (27.8% of eligible voters), are those unable to vote by law, or are among the 48% of voters who are “good guys.”
The second example is from someone angry the stock market panicked. The third example is another third-party “this is the vibe around here” tweet, which I guess is evidence. The fourth is a link to a video that was taken down by the time I saw it, but is ostensibly a regretful leave voter whose race appears to undermine the “leave = racist” narrative.
My question is: How common is “voter’s remorse”? How many elections have voters regretting all the next day? What if the mainstream media gets really invested in the story that everyone who voted regretted it? Would you say you regretted it too? If we don’t have answers to these questions (and I don’t) how meaningful are a handful of anecdotes?
People often vote differently from how they say they will vote, which is why opinion polls are wrong. In the US, where Democrats have traditionally been branded as a party of idealists, and Republicans as a party of pragmatists (this has of course changed recently, now that we no longer have ideologies), Democrats traditionally have done better in exit polls than they did in the actual elections. Some people have called this voter fraud, but others have pointed out the desire to look like an idealistic, sensitive good guy leads people to fake their voter preference. Could it cause people to say they regret a vote they made in good conscience?
It is, of course, possible that many people who voted to leave didn’t really want to leave. But, at least among my friends, this has already become the dominant narrative of the week: that Leave voters were so confused (?) that they pulled a lever based on momentary hate emotions (?), and sobered up immediately thereafter; and this theory, while possible, sounds fishy to me.
ETA: A good point from Freddie deBoer.