Individuals’ perceptions on immigration and political trust may have shaped the Brexit vote

A few weeks prior to the EU Referendum in the UK, researchers surveyed 1000 residents of Kent in the south east of England (where a majority intended to vote to leave), and 1000 across Scotland (where a majority intended to vote to remain). The findings are published in the British Journal of Social Psychology.

Participants were asked about their trust in politicians, concerns about acceptable levels of immigration, feelings of threat from immigration, how much they identified as European, and their voting intention. “The results revealed, in both regions, that people were most likely to opt for Brexit when their feelings of threat and disidentification with Europe had been amplified by a combination of concern about immigration levels and distrust of politicians,” said co-author Professor Dominic Abrams, of the University of Kent.

To read the full study please go to http://newsroom.wiley.com/press-release/individuals-perceptions-immigration-and-political-trust-may-have-shaped-brexit-vote.

For more on this research see our Political and Social Change page.

Could we have predicted Brexit?

Was Theresa May right to go for ‘strong and stable’ at the last general election? Although that strategy has been the subject of criticism, research conducted by Professor Dominic Abrams and Dr Giovanni Travaglino suggests that these themes might have appealed particularly to those who voted to leave the EU.

The research just published in the British Journal of Social Psychology reports evidence from political opinion surveys conducted just before the EU referendum, with samples of 1000 eligible voters from Kent and 1000 from Scotland. It examined the way that respondents’ views predicted their voting intentions in the referendum.

Different explanations have been given for why people voted for Brexit. One explanation suggests that support for Brexit reflected a general rise in xenophobia and prejudice, perhaps fuelled by a populist agenda. Another explanation is that it reflected people’s distrust and rejection of the political establishment. Professor Abrams and Dr Travaglino proposed an ‘aversion amplification hypothesis’ whereby the combination of these two components was particularly influential. They reasoned that when people’s concern about levels of immigration was combined with feeling distrustful of politicians, this would lead to a heightened sense of threat from immigration, and disidentification with Europe. A vote for Brexit reflected a rejection of the political status-quo and a desire for a more predictable future.

To read the full story please go to https://www.britac.ac.uk/blog/could-we-have-predicted-brexit.

For more on this research see our Political and Social Change page.

Perceptions on immigration and political trust shaped Brexit vote

One explanation for Brexit suggests it reflected people’s worries about immigration. Another is that it reflected people’s distrust of the political establishment. Now new research from psychologists on people’s attitudes in Kent and Scotland suggests that it was the link between these two factors that was particularly important.

Researchers at the University surveyed people just before the UK Referendum vote in June 2016 and found that concern about the impact of immigration and a distrust of politicians combined to amplify feelings of threat and lack of identification with Europe in Brexit voters.

The study, led by Professor Dominic Abrams, of the School of Psychology, featured online surveys conducted with 1,000 residents of Kent, where a majority said they intended to vote to leave, and 1,000 people in Scotland, where a majority said they intended to vote to remain.

To read the full story, please go to the Kent News Centre.

For more on this research see our Political and Social Change page.

Support for populist ideologies linked to feelings of disadvantage and national narcissism

People who perceive they are part of a disadvantaged group are more likely to have an unrealistic belief in the greatness of their nation and support populist ideologies.

A team of psychologists and political scientists from the universities of Kent (UK), Warsaw (Poland) and Maryland (USA) found in three studies that national collective narcissism was linked to support for populism. In the UK, collective narcissism predicted support for Brexit, in the US it predicted support for Donald Trump, and in Poland it predicted support for the populist Law and Justice party.

The study found that collective narcissism, i.e. an unrealistic belief in the greatness of the nation, increased in response to group feelings of being disadvantaged, especially when this was long lasting.

The researchers suggest that the narrative of relative disadvantage, fuelled by populist leaders, might reinforce a ‘defensive and destructive’ national perspective. Narcissistic beliefs about the in-group greatness are a way to compensate for feelings of being worse off than other groups.

Kent Psychologist, Dr Aleksandra Cichocka, said that the results might partially explain why populism is often linked to prejudicial attitudes and behaviours.

Read the full news story at the Kent News Centre. The full article is published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Testimonial MSc in Political Psychology – Linus Peitz

Why did you choose this postgraduate course and institution?
I completed my undergraduate degree in psychology, I wanted to continue in this field with a focus on political issues, and the Political Psychology MSc programme at Kent, and its emphasis on quantitative methods seemed to be the perfect match for me.

Despite the fact that the course had just been introduced last term, things worked very smoothly, which is undoubtedly the achievement of the teaching and administration staff. No questions are left unanswered and whenever I encountered a problem that could not be solved via email, there is always someone available you can speak to in person, whether it’s a questions about statistical analysis, an assignment you don’t understand or anything to do with future career or research plans.

The course itself offers a great mix of social- and political-science modules, and one of its core strengths is the diversity of content. All modules, be it on group-processes, public opinion, political ideology or intergroup relations, are presented from multiple angles and it is down to the student to choose the point of emphasis. This allowed me to explore topics that were totally new to me, which there were a lot of, and apply them to issues that I am personally interested in. This ultimately led me to my current research project where I explore the ideological underpinning of attitudes towards supranational institutions, a topic that I hope to continue working on for a PhD here at Kent.

MSc in Political Psychology launch event

We are delighted to invite you to the MSc in Political Psychology launching event on Feb 3rd (Friday), 4pm, Grimond Lecture Theatre 2.

The new MSc in Political Psychology explores the relationships between political and psychological processes. The programme is being run for the first time this academic year by the School of Psychology and the School of Politics and International Relations. The event will feature presentations of the programme and current student projects, as well as a special guest lecture by Dr Eva Green, president-elect of the International Society of Political Psychology, on “Ideological climates and immigration attitudes”.

For further information, please see our events calendar.

Dr Aleksandra Cichocka wins EASP 2017 Jaspars Award

In December 2016, the European Association of Social Psychology (EASP) announced that Dr Aleksandra Cichocka, who is a Lecturer in Political Psychology at Kent, had won a 2017 Jaspars Award.

The award recognises young scholars who have made an outstanding research contribution. The selection committee made their decision based on a variety of indicators of early career research productivity, such as awards, grants, number and quality of publications.

Conservatives prefer using nouns, psychologists find

New transatlantic research led by a University psychologist suggests conservatives prefer using nouns.

As part of the study researchers found that US presidents who were considered conservative used a greater proportion of nouns in major speeches.

The researchers, led by Dr Aleksandra Cichocka of the School of Psychology, also established that conservatives generally, to a greater degree than liberals, tend to refer to things by their names, rather than describing them in terms of their features. An example would be saying someone ‘is an optimist’, rather than ‘is optimistic’.

For more details, please go to the University of Kent’s News Centre.

Political Psychology MSc

The School of Psychology is delighted to offer the brand new MSc in Political Psychology in 2016/17.

This is an exciting new programme exploring the relationships between political and psychological processes. By combining modules from the Schools of Psychology and the School of Politics and International Relations the programme offers a unique interdisciplinary focus on key current issues in political psychology.

For more details, please see the postgraduate prospectus and the MSc in Political Psychology flyer. We will be accepting applications very soon!