Who follows the leader? Leadership heuristics and valence voting at the UK’s 2016 Brexit referendum

Ron Johnston*, Charles Pattie, Todd Hartman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

Recent accounts of British voting behaviour emphasise the importance of voters’ valence judgements on deciding which party to support: significant numbers of voters do not rely on their membership of particular socio-economic groups or ideological preferences; instead, they rely on evaluations of government performance to determine their vote. Part of this evaluation comes from ‘fast and frugal’ heuristics such as their evaluations of party leaders and other senior politicians. Such heuristics have been shown to be influential in the United Kingdom’s 2016 Brexit Referendum for example. We extend this research to show that the influence of leadership heuristics on individuals’ chances of voting for Brexit varied depending on evaluations of leading politicians associated with the Remain and the Leave campaigns. Moreover, feelings toward the party leaders had a larger influence on the referendum votes of those holding middle-of-the-road views on Europe than on those who were themselves either strongly pro- or anti-EU.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInnovation
Early online date2 Apr 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Apr 2020

Keywords

  • England
  • EU referendum
  • heuristics
  • leader cues
  • valence
  • voting

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