BBC Question Time: factchecked

Published: 23rd Mar 2018

Question Time was in Leeds this week. The audience were all under 30. The panelists were: deputy chair of the Conservative Party James Cleverley, shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti, SNP shadow spokesman for defence Stewart McDonald, journalist and transgender activist Paris Lees, and Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens. We factchecked how young people voted in the EU referendum, how many young trans people have attempted suicide, earnings and life expectancy, and the legal age for buying a house and getting married.

How did young people vote in the Brexit referendum?

“The statistics from the polls that were done showed, [...] 73% of people under 24 voted to remain.”

David Dimbleby, 22 March 2017

“From what polls? The same polls that said that... Remain was going to win, and the same polls that said that the Conservatives were going to win a majority in the last general election?”

BBC Question Time audience member, 22 March 2017

It’s impossible to be precise about exactly what proportion of under 25s across the UK voted Remain or Leave in the 2016 EU referendum. However, 73% seems a reasonable estimate, based on the results of a number of polls that have been done.  

Because age isn’t recorded on ballot papers, we have no official figures on voting by age group, and so polling and survey data is the best source we have.

These polls generally agree that around 70-75% of voters under 25s voted Remain. Pollsters Ipsos-Mori put the figure at 75%, and YouGov put the figure at 71%. These polls were  weighted after the vote to mirror the actual 48% to 52% split between Remain and Leave voters. This means they’re likely to more reliably depict the vote split by age, than pre-referendum polls that didn’t do this weighting.

A poll by Lord Ashcroft, cited on last night’s Question Time, put the figure for the under-25 Remain vote at 73%, and also showed the overall split at 48% to 52%. But it doesn’t detail whether the data was similarly weighted to reflect the referendum result. We’ve asked for more information on the poll.

While most polls incorrectly forecast a victory for Remain (and based on polling results experts thought it likely that there would be  a Conservative majority at the 2017 election), these polls weren’t weighted after the fact. Therefore they’re less likely to be reliable in estimating voting patterns.

Following the referendum, the long-term British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey estimated that 72% of 18-24 year old voters, voted Remain.

While the BSA survey interviewed far fewer people than the referendum polls, the survey’s methodology makes it one of the best available sources. Professor John Curtice, President of the British Polling Council, says that survey like this one “are more successful in making contact with those who have little interest in politics.” This means they may reach a more representative sample of people than other polls.

Young trans people in Britain

“45% of young trans people in this country, modern Britain, have attempted suicide. Not thought about, attempted”

Paris Lees, 22 March 2018

We can’t say for sure whether 45% of young trans people in Britain have tried to take their own life. It’s not clear that the survey this claim is based on is representative of all young trans people in Britain.

45% of young trans people who took part in a survey commissioned by the LGBT charity Stonewall said they had at some point attempted to take their own life. 92% said they have thought about doing so. There were 594 young trans respondents overall.

Stonewall surveyed 3,713 young people aged 11 to 19 across Britain, from November 2016 to February 2017. The survey was for young people who are lesbian, gay, bi or trans, or who think they might be. 16% of those surveyed reported themselves to be trans.

That’s a reasonable sample size, but we can’t say if the people responding are representative of young LGBT people in Britain as a whole.

That’s because we don’t have information on the demographic profile of the young LGBT community overall, and so the researchers weren’t able to adjust the findings to try and make them reflective of the general LGBT population.

Stonewall told us the survey was conducted via open recruitment and was self-selecting—in other words people chose whether to participate or not. This can be a problem in surveys because we don’t know if certain types of person are more likely to respond in the first place—skewing the results.

The survey did take steps to mitigate this as well. Stonewall told us the survey was sent out with the aim of sounding as neutral in tone as possible, with the line “what’s life in Britain like for you?”, and respondents were told there would be questions on school, and social life, role models and aspirations for the future.

The survey also provides some detail on the makeup of the respondents, in terms of the type of schools they attend, their ethnicity, their free school meal status, and whether or not they have a disability. However, this doesn’t tell us if they are representative of the young LGBT community.

Contacting Samaritans

The Samaritans’ helpline is available at all hours and can be contacted free on 116 123, or you can email

Living long and prospering?

“And now people are getting poorer, life expectancy is going down, and we’re not going to be as rich as our parents.”

Paris Lees, 22 March 2018

Over the last 50 years, people in the UK have become richer in general. Fewer people are earning low incomes and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) says there has been a gradual decline in income inequality over the last decade.

There are lots of ways to measure whether people are getting richer or poorer—income and household wealth are just some of the ways we can calculate this. We can also get a different picture depending on which groups of people we look at and when in their lives.

The average net household wealth of someone in their early 30s (and born in the early 1980s) is £27,000, according to analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. That’s around half of what those born in the early 1970s had at the same sort of age (£53,000).

These figures are using a median average meaning half had less than that figure, and half had more. This figure includes housing, financial, and private pension wealth.

The IFS also says that people born in the early 1980s were the first post-war generation not to earn higher salaries in early adulthood than those born in the decade before them. They also have lower rates of home ownership and spend more of their income on housing costs, particularly rents. It also says that “It looks like those born in the early 1980s are likely to find it harder than their predecessors to build up wealth in housing and pensions as they age.”

Life expectancy isn’t falling overall, but its rate of increase has slowed down in recent years.

At the moment, estimates suggest a newborn baby boy in the UK can expect to live to about 89 and a half years old, and a girl to just over 92.

Life expectancy has also been growing for more than a century. But in recent years, the ONS says the rate of increase is slowing down. It explains some of the possible reasons:

“Infant and child mortality rates are now at such low levels that it’s unlikely that further reductions will affect future life expectancy. Additionally, it is possible that other factors like medical advances, which have historically driven life expectancy improvements, may also stop having so much of an effect.”

The ONS also said that between 2011 to 2013 and 2014 to 2016 the improvements in another measure of life expectancy were the smallest seen in the 21st century.

At the same time, we don’t yet know if any of this is part of a new trend or just a blip, and can only speculate on how medicine and lifestyles might change over the century ahead.

The Marmot report from the UCL Institute of Health Equity based on those ONS national life tables found that improvements in life expectancy from birth had slowed from a year increase every five years to a year increase every decade for women since 2010, and for men, a year increase every three and a half years to every six years.

But these changes haven’t been the same everywhere in the UK.

In areas like Hartlepool, between 2011 to 2013 and 2014 to 2016 life expectancy at birth has fallen. In that area life expectancy for newborn boys dropped by 1.2 years.

In response to a written question in January of this year, the National Statistician John Pullinger told Chris Ruane MP that almost 20% of local authorities in the UK had experienced a decline in life expectancy between 2009 to 2011 and 2014 to 2016 for females at birth, and just over 8% saw declines for males.

But he added that life expectancy estimates for the 389 local areas do tend to fluctuate year on year, and because the decreases and populations are small we can’t tell whether these changes represent what’s really happening.

What rights do you get at 18?

“I definitely think they should be 18 [to vote]. As a consenting adult, that is the age you can buy a house or get married on your own, legally.”

BBC Question time audience member, 22 March 2018

The figures in this article apply to England and Wales. We haven’t been able to look at the case for Scotland and Northern Ireland here.

You can’t buy a house yourself until you’re 18, because in general you can’t legally enter into a contract until that age. People under 18 can still have an ‘estate in land’ owned in trust by a trustee. According to the House of Commons Library:

“At 18 an individual has complete contractual capacity; they can make binding contracts in their own right. They can own land, buy a house or flat, hold a tenancy or apply for a mortgage. They will also become entitled to any property that has been held in trust for them.”

You may also have certain rights to being housed by your local authority if you’re under 18. Local authorities usually have to secure housing for unintentionally homeless 16 and 17 year-olds, and you can also get help if you’re under 16 and having serious problems at home.

You can legally get married, or enter into a civil partnership at 16, although parental consent must be given in both cases if you are under the age of 18.

We’ve previously summarised some of the key legal age limits in England and Wales.

If the issues in this article are relevant to you and you’re looking for advice about your own circumstances wherever you are in the UK, you can contact Citizens Advice.


Tackling misinformation in an open society

We aim for our factchecks to be as accurate and up-to-date as possible. If you think we've made an error or missed some relevant information, please email