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The power of these issues was evident in the British referendum Thursday evening as the votes were counted. The result in Sunderland — long a Labour stronghold, which voted 62 percent to “Leave” — was the first clear sign of the final outcome.
In the end, many of Labour’s traditional working-class strongholds in old industries across northern England voted for “Brexit.” (The last deep coal mine in the country closed last year in North Yorkshire, in northern England.)
“Remain” did better than the Labour Party normally does in the establishment-friendly, traditionally Conservative and more affluent countryside of southern England, let alone in the Conservative seats of London, but not by enough.
The same story unfolded in the recent Austrian elections. The far right won working-class areas that sided with the Social Democrats a decade earlier. Similar patterns show up in Denmark and Germany, with the center-left doing better in cosmopolitan metropolitan areas and with populists gaining in former leftist strongholds.
The result is familiar to Americans: an electorate split between the well-educated, diverse and cosmopolitan metropolitan areas connected to the global economy and the older, less educated, former industrial regions that haven’t benefited from globalization.
But in much the same way that immigration and nationalism proved to be more persuasive to the more secular European working class, European-style populism — now embodied by Donald Trump — could do additional damage to the Democrats in many parts of the United States.