Although I'm disappointed with the result of the referendum on the alternative vote system (AV), the outcome threw up some interesting results. Of all the constituencies, only 10 voted in favour of reform. Among these 10 are Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh Central and Glasgow Kelvin. It struck me that the great university districts of the UK might voting for reform, while everyone else was not. Even in those areas where it was a close call, it seems that major university districts are prevalent. Some of the constituencies with high yes votes included Brighton Pavilion (49.8%), Manchester (44.5%), Cardiff Central (45.7%), Bristol (44.7%) and several others. There's quite a spread of areas here, and there doesn't seem to be a specific north/south divide on the issue. At the other end of the scale, some examples of low Yes votes include South Holland and The Deepings (21.4%), Broxbourne (20.46) and South Staffordshire (20.9%). No great university presence in these regions.
So, is it the case that those areas where people were better educated were more likely to vote yes to AV? Well, the geek that I am, I correlated the electoral results for each constituency (% of yes votes) against a number of different socio-economic indicators including general socio-economic status, economic activity, level of industry and lastly level of educational qualifications. These data can be gotten from the parliament.uk site. It turns out that level of education is the most closely correlated with the tendency to vote yes to AV (r = .52), while level of industry (r = .37) and socio-economic status (r = .12) showed weaker relationships. Level of economic activity was not related at all.
Now, these are pretty rough calculations as the two sets of data do not overlap completely in terms of constituency boundaries (and so there are a few approximations in the calculations), but there is enough power to highlight some indicative relationships. While it would be wrong to say that "smarter" people were more likely to vote yes, it does look like "more educated people" were more likely to vote yes.
I've always thought that increasing educational attainment was a way of dealing with many of the issues that face society today, and here is another piece of evidence to support that!