Perceived Threat Had a Greater Impact Than Contact with Immigrants on Brexit Vote

Journal of Social and Political

Sciences

ISSN 2615-3718 (Online)

ISSN 2621-5675 (Print)

Published: 24 May 2019

Perceived Threat Had a Greater Impact Than Contact with Immigrants on Brexit Vote

Julian R.P. Bond, Ricardo Tejeiro

The University of Liverpool (United Kingdom), Laureate Online Education (Netherlands)

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10.31014/aior.1991.02.02.74

Pages: 333-346

Keywords: Intergroup Threat, Contact Theory, Prejudice, Brexit, Immigration, Voting Behaviour

Abstract

In the early 21st century, the United Kingdom (UK) witnessed a significant rise in net immigration, partly caused by freedom of movement within the European Union (EU). In response to political pressures, a referendum on EU membership was held in June 2016, resulting in a narrow majority for leaving the EU. This paper analyses the relative impact of contact and perceived threat on prejudice and voting behaviour in the referendum based on a sample of 1127 UK adults. While racial prejudice was a significant predictor of stated voting behaviour in the referendum, the relationship of voting with perceived threat was greater. Both factors were around five times more predictive of voting behaviour than contact. Both prejudice towards and perceived threat from EU immigrants was significantly more predictive than the same measures across all immigrants, suggesting that the impact of these variables on voting behaviour was more nuanced than a general negativity towards immigrants. There was no evidence that any positive effect of contact in reducing prejudice cumulates over multiple touchpoints.

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