The Values Story of the Brexit Split (Part 1)

Unconscious motivational values are largely missing from most discussions about what happened in the EU Referendum vote for ‘Brexit’ and the Trump election.  Many people have asked me what ‘values’ may have played and this post is my view of the most probable values dynamic, based on the available evidence from CDSM and other sources.  In ‘Part 2’ I’ll look at what it means now and next.

If you are very familiar with the CDSM values model, you can jump to slide 13, then maybe slide 21.  Otherwise it only makes any sense if you take a look at them all from the beginning.  My thanks to Pat Dade and Les Higgins at CDSM for allowing me to use some of their data and materials.  See some of more previous blogs for more detail on the Brexit campaign (links here).

If you’d like to discuss this further you can post a comment or contact me.

download pdf of slides here

[Note on slides: these contain the main content. Text on slide 42 has been revised (December 2018) for clarity and on slide 48 it says there is no CDSM post-Referendum values voting survey but the data for people voting Leave/Remain and by party at the 2017 General Election are now in the follow-up post Brexit Values Story 2.1].


In 2016 voters in both the EU referendum in the UK and (very likely) the US Presidential election appear to have strongly divided along values lines which split the values map across the middle, as they sorted along the ‘power v universalism’ axis.  This left (most) Pioneers and Now People Prospectors on one (the losing) side and the Settlers and Golden Dreamer Prospectors on the other.

The social, political, economic and technological factors which combined to facilitate this split were decades in the making but came together in a ‘perfect storm’ or ‘black swan’ event only in 2016.

After WW2 the ‘normal’ operation of the values ‘conveyor’ led to a gradual increase in the number of Prospectors and then Pioneers in society and improving social conditions led to new opportunities and experiences, enabling more people each generation to meet the sequence of dominant needs from security, safety and identity (Settler, Security Driven) to esteem of others and self-esteem through ‘success’ (Prospector, Outer Directed) and then Pioneer needs (universalism, innovation, ethical clarity and ethical complexity, self-choice).

The change-averse Settlers tolerated this, often reluctantly, as life overall seemed to be otherwise getting better, as for example the family benefitted as children led better lives than their parents.  Mobility allowed more people to lead different lifestyles.

Meanwhile politics began to decouple from people through factors such as privatisation, globalisation, professionalization, convergence of ‘offers’ on the ‘centre’, replacement of face-to-face with media and then social media channels, and hollowing out of political parties.  Settlers, by the 1980s and 1990s a minority, began to feel increasingly forgotten by ‘them’.  Socially minded Pioneers largely deserted formal political activism for NGO campaigns.  Prospectors went shopping and into business.  Political participation withered.

Technological, social change and globalisation combined to ‘stretch’ the social elastic keeping these groups together, as common experiences dwindled, lives separated and ‘living in bubbles’ was boosted by social media.

Then around 2008 UK values surveys showed the first rise in Settlers in decades, as some Prospectors ‘fell back’ during the economic crash and recession.

At the same time in Britain, the EU was being vilified and UKIP rose as a party paying attention to Settler needs and fears (security, safety, identity), and powerlessness (Settlers but also Golden Dreamers).  Immigration from the EU rose dramatically and was magnified by media attention and political campaigns, triggering an authoritarian reaction as Settlers feared being culturally overwhelmed.  This was reinforced by the EU Migration crisis and ‘foreign’ terrorism.  Most Pioneers and the more confident Now People Prospectors nevertheless remained on balance positive about the EU.   Society was values-primed for a split.

The UK EU referendum posed a simpler, clearer format of choice than normal UK elections.  This reduced the barrier to participation for Settlers and Golden Dreamers at the same time as the existential threat, portrayed in the Leave campaigns as posed by EU Membership, reached a new high. The Remain side failed to engage Now People Prospectors and Pioneers with an emotionally powerful optimistic, positive campaign about what was good about ‘Europe’ in human terms. Some Pioneers will have voted Leave on Libertarian or anti-capitalist lines (ie splintered), and some Now People probably did not vote because they felt confused and had no positive, optimistic figure to follow.  We don’t know for sure but it is likely that turnout for all Leave-leaning people was higher than for Remain.

UK (Leave.EU) and US (Trump) campaigns both used big data psychographic message targeting and gamed the media with controversialism, whereas their opponents did not use such techniques.

‘Progressives’ in both the UK, and the US (where something very similar happened) now live in countries where they are part of values-majority (more Pioneers + Now People than Golden Dreamers + Settlers) but where governments are in place with a programme based on playing to Settler and Golden Dreamer hopes and fears.  ‘Conventional’ political explanations based solely on economics, geography and demographics and unstructured reference to ‘values’ offer inadequate insights into what to do next.

Chris Rose

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Values Story of the Brexit Split (Part 1)

  1. Tessa Tennant says:

    Very helpful to have this analysis in Pioneers-Propectors-Settlers terms, thanks Chris

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *