Public opinion, Political Psychology Workshop

This workshop for staff/post-doctoral and PhD students encompasses thought and research on the themes of public opinion and social policy development, from across the University.

  "parker-johnson-v0OWc_skg0g-unsplash" by Parker Johnson.

1.00-1.45 National identity rhetoric in UK and US politics, Stefan Leach, Chiara Zazzarino and Aleksandra Cichocka (from Psychology)

Political leaders seem to increasingly rely on rhetoric that cues national identity and interests (e.g., ‘Make America Great’), knowing that people’s attachment to their national groups can shape their political attitudes and engagement. I will present some recent progress on a project examining these ideas, including the development of a machine learning algorithm which can classify positive and defensive forms of national identity rhetoric, and an analysis of engagement with national identity rhetoric expressed by contemporary UK and US political figures on social media.

1.45-2.30 What do we mean when we talk about ‘localism’? MPs, emplaced empathy, and constituency politics as social work, Jo Warner (SSPSSR)

Continued debate about the potential problems with localism in the selection of MPs shows that it remains a live issue (see William Hague in The Times, April 25th, 2023). While there is research that explores the apparent continuing trend towards voters favouring an MP who is local to the community, it is also instructive to understand the dimension of localism from the perspective of MPs. This paper reports on a small-scale qualitative study involving semi-structured interviews with 13 MPs. The findings point to the importance for these MPs of a strong affective connection to their locality in order to fulfil the perceived expectations of constituents in relation to what is termed ‘emotional interest representation’. That is, the capacity of an MP to demonstrate empathic ties to their constituency as a place and to individuals, specifically to instil confidence that their grievances have been heard, understood, and can thereby be re-presented. In this sense, localism can be understood more as a mistakenly assumed short-cut to this necessary visceral connection with voters, when localism itself may be neither necessary nor sufficient for such a connection. The paper concludes by suggesting that, in this light, the long-standing negative connotations of constituency work as ‘glorified social work’ requires closer and more critical analysis. The corollary of these negative connotations – namely, that detachment from local concerns is a prerequisite for competence on the national or international political stage – equally warrants further scrutiny.


2.30-3.15 Individual-level trajectories of affective polarisation, Joseph Phillips, Robin Wollast, and Nikhil Sengupta (PSYPOL)

Affective polarisation is a feature of most party systems. Most work focuses on why some people display higher levels of affective polarisation than others, or the conditions under which some polities display higher levels of affective polarisation. However, little is known about the process by which some people reach different levels of affective polarisation over time. Quantifying different temporal trajectories of affective polarisation in a given population can tell us much about how stable partisan affect is (and ultimately who manipulations to reduce affective polarisation can sway), and also indicate not only which factors affect levels of affective polarisation, but also its volatility over time. In this paper, we leverage a large, nationally representative panel of British citizens over a dozen waves from 2014 to 2023 to answer these questions. We use latent class growth curve modelling (LCGCM), an inductive, person-oriented approach, to identify individual-level trajectories in affective polarisation over time. We then examine the extent to which demographic factors (age, gender, education) and political factors (ideological extremity, political engagement) explain why people follow different polarisation trajectories. Finally, we examine howdifferent trajectory groups differ in their patterns of political engagement, political participation, and satisfaction with democracy over time.


3.15 Tea/coffee (Keynes Atrium)


3.30-4.15 How does economic assistance for ex-combatants impact community support for reintegration? Evidence from a conjoint survey in North-East Nigeria Ed Morgan-Jones (PolIR)

What policies will citizens support to enable the reintegration former combatants into their communities? A central tension in the design of policy packages to support the reintegration of former fighters concerns the role of material support for former fighters. Research shows that giving ex-combatants this support is necessary to secure successful and peaceful reintegration. Many policy makers and scholars though are concerned that providing material support to former fighters risks backlash from potential host communities, which may view material support to former fighters as unfair. In this paper we examine how Nigerian respondents see this trade-off between fairness and peace and security, in their evaluation of policies aimed at enabling reintegration of ex Boko Haram fighters. Our study utilizes a conjoint survey and vignette experiment with 2,400 respondents evaluating 55,000 randomized policy packages across 8 attributes in two locations. We find that most respondents are in favor of providing economic support to ex-combatants, while policies that also support victims and communities are most popular overall. This suggests that respondents may prioritize peace and security over fairness, with implications for both theory and policy.


4.15-5.00 The measurement and correlates of political correctness: A meta-analytical secondary analysis of 14 public opinion surveys, Jonathan Bowman, Fanny Lalot and Dominic Abrams (Psychology)

Opposition to political correctness (PC) was central to Donald Trump’s successful campaign for the US presidency in 2016 and strongly associated with Leave voters in the UK’s 2016 ‘Brexit’ referendum. PC has attracted interest from polling organisations, but less so from social and political psychologists. This pre-registered meta-analysis synthesised results from 14 nationally representative surveys (four in the UK and ten in the US, N = 109,100). We explored, 1) how the wording of the question moderates attitudes to PC, 2) what socio-demographic and attitudinal variables influence support for or opposition to PC, and 3) relative attitudes to PC in the UK and the US. There is considerable heterogeneity in responses to PC that is only partly explained by the way the question was asked. Women, LGBTQ+, and ethnic minorities are more supportive of PC, perhaps reflecting the fact that they benefit from PC norms. Support for PC is correlated positively with education and negatively with age. Opposition to PC is directionally but not significantly greater in the UK than in the US. Nevertheless, across almost all socio-demographic groups, and however the question is phrased, a majority are opposed to PC both in the UK and the US. Support for PC is positively associated with a liberal political orientation and internal motivation to control prejudice, and negatively correlated, albeit weakly, with prejudice. We hope this study will provide a platform for more research on the motivations for and consequences of PC. It is already clear that the backlash against PC is powerful and pervasive, undermining any positive impact PC might have in reducing prejudice.

Followed by drinks at K-Bar!

To attend, please email Ben Seyd.