Brexit-divided Britain: How people know what to think when political loyalties conflict

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Sociology


In my proposed research I will investigate how, in the context of party disunity, individuals form opinions on complex political issues. The case study will be Britain in the lead-up to and aftermath of the 2016 Brexit referendum. Given the divided nature of Britain's major parties, and the division of Brexit attitudes across polarised but non-partisan lines, I investigate the mechanism by which individuals come to hold certain attitudes, beliefs, and issue positions. I focus particularly on the influence of media and political elites, providing a novel approach to understanding the role 'motivated reasoning' in contexts where political parties provide voters
with decidedly mixed messages.
My research will have two important potential implications. Firstly, it will offer an extension of the useful theory of motivated reasoning to a relatively unfamiliar context. It is well understood that, in normal political contexts, individuals process new information and arguments through a partisan 'filter'. By considering a context where party identity has much less relevance, in large part because the divided parties themselves offer conflicting messages, my research will extend our knowledge of the filters through which individuals process information.
Secondly, my research will have concrete empirical implications for understanding British politics since 2015. By focussing particularly on media and political elites my work will help tackle some of typical questions asked about recent British political developments. It will also help to solve some specific empirical puzzles. For example, why has immigration concern fallen since the Brexit referendum?


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000649/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2266897 Studentship ES/P000649/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2022 Daniel Snow