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Photo:Vote Leave protestors,” by Matt Brown licensed under CC BY 2.0. Hue is modified from the original.

Stevens, Daniel, and Susan Banducci. “The authoritarian dynamic and Brexit: Understanding the relationship between authoritarianism and wanting to leave the EU.” European Journal of Social Psychology (2022).


Individual-level authoritarianism is prominent in explanations of preferences for Brexit. We contend that extant accounts have provided an incomplete theoretical and empirical understanding of this relationship. Drawing on the idea of the ‘authoritarian dynamic’, we show that perceptions of the economic/cultural threat of immigration have stronger effects on the pro-Brexit views of individuals with weak authoritarian predispositions (libertarians). At the same time, perceptions of normative threat, which pertain to concerns like loss of faith in or lack of consensus among established authorities, have a greater impact on the pro-Brexit views of individuals with high authoritarian predispositions (authoritarians). These conditional relationships, which have previously gone unacknowledged, are crucial to understanding which individuals are likely to respond to ‘increased threat’ with pro-Brexit attitudes. We demonstrate these relationships with pro-Brexit views using British Election Study longitudinal panel data. The results clarify the conditional impact of threats and authoritarian predispositions on attitudes.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.