Social identity, personality and connectedness: probing the identity and community divides behind Brexit

Publication type

Research Paper


Siobhan McAndrew, Paula Surridge and Neema Begum

Publication date


The UK vote to leave the European Union in June 2016 surprised and confounded academics and commentators alike. Existing accounts have focused on anti-immigration attitudes, anti-establishment sentiment and on the ‘left behind’, as well as national identity. This paper expands the range of possible explanations for the vote by considering a wider range of identity measures, including class and racial identities, and by considering in detail how ‘connectedness’ to others and to localities may have played a role in processes. We find evidence that racial identity was a factor in attitudes towards the European Union for White British voters, extending our understanding of the relationship between territorial identities, ethnicity and attitudes towards the European Union. Connectedness via networks also structures attitudes, with those with higher levels of and more diverse connections having more favourable attitudes towards the EU. Whilst these effects are smaller than those of education and age, they are nonetheless comparable with those of class and income, and suggest that we should be wary of accounts of attitudes towards the EU that fail to locate voters within their social contexts.



Politics, Social Groups, Public Opinion, Social Networks, Psychology, Elections. Electoral Behaviour, Demography, Ethnic Groups, Social Capital, Social Attitudes, Social Stratification, Social Psychology and Race Relations

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