Understanding Society Scientific Conference 2019 - , University of Essex

Imagined and behavioural attachments and Eurosceptic attitudes

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Day:Wed 3 Jul
  • Siobhan McAndrew, University of Bristol

Cultural accounts of EU Referendum vote choice have turned to national identity, particularly Englishness. What remains unclear is which of a broad range of social identities matter most, and whether behavioural or cognitive aspects of identity dominate in explaining the identity-Euroscepticism relationship. Using Wave 8 of the UK Longitudinal Household Study, we consider identity in terms of primordial attachment, civic and social networks, and social identity theory. We use the Karlson/Holm/Breen method to compare coefficients across nested logit models, and distinguish social-structural, behavioural and identificational variables, treating the latter as potential mediators. Salience of ethnoracial identity matters for attitudes towards the European Union for White British voters in particular. Connectedness via social networks and civic engagement also structure attitudes: those with a larger range of and more diverse friendships tend to have more favourable attitudes towards the European Union. Surprisingly, we find little evidence that those with stronger neighbourhood attachment or for whom 'family' is more salient are more likely to be Eurosceptic. We argue that both behavioural measures of attachment and social identities variously have explanatory power, confounding parsimonous accounts of EU attitudes, and note that identity-related and network effects are comparable in substantive significance with those of occupational status. Accounts of the EU Referendum result must accordingly pay attention to different dimensions of embeddedness and multiple rather than single sources of identification.