Changing preferences for Brexit: identifying the groups with volatile support for 'Leave'

Publication type

Research Paper


Jan Germen Janmaat, Gabriella Melis, Andy Green and Nicola Pensiero

Publication date

Series Number



This paper explores the dynamics of support for the UK’s departure from the EU over the course of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017. It further identifies groups with a particular profile in terms of political attitudes and behaviours and explores whether these groups show a marked change in their support for leave. The paper draws on two contrasting perspectives on voter volatility. While the first one considers the phenomenon to be a characteristic of whimsical, uninterested and disengaged people, the second one sees it in a more positive light as it associates volatility with the informed and emancipate citizen holding politicians to account. The study uses Waves 6, 7 and 8 of Understanding Society and conducts various analyses, including latent class analysis (LCA), to explore the research questions. LCA yields four groups with distinct political profiles. Only one of these groups, labelled “the highly engaged and satisfied”, shows a significant increase in support for leave. The other groups, including “the non-engaged” and “the dissatisfied”, are not becoming significantly more or less supportive of leave. The results are thus more in accordance with the second perspective.


Politics, Public Opinion, Psychology, Government, Social Attitudes and International Economic Relations


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