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Ian R. Murray, Anke C. Plagnol and Philip J. Corr. "When things go wrong and people are afraid: An evaluation of group polarisation in the UK post Brexit". (download)


How divided is the UK in the aftermath of the Brexit result? The present study addresses this question by administering a multiple round mini-dictator game to a sample of 1,558 British adults to examine how party and EU referendum identity are associated with non-political social behaviour. Social preferences are benchmarked in an identity neutral round. Further rounds then examine how social preferences diverge from this benchmark across a range of induced in-group and out-group scenarios based on party identity (e.g., Conservative and Labour) and EU referendum voting identity (leave and remain). There is a significant weakening of pro-social behaviour in all out-group conditions, suggesting out-group negativity rather than in-group favouritism. Bias based on recently formed EU referendum identities is found to be as strong as bias based on traditional party identity showing that the ongoing debate about the UK’s membership of the EU has generated significant levels of affective polarisation. Furthermore, EU referendum identity moderates social preferences in out-group scenarios, such that EU Remain supporters exhibit significantly weaker levels of pro-social behaviour towards competing partisans. Thus, people who have found themselves on the losing side in the Brexit referendum exhibit significantly more animus than Leave voters. The results of this study make a novel contribution to the nascent literature on the social and behavioural impacts of the Brexit result, and add to the wider literature on group-contingent social preferences.




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