Special Symposium

Brexit & The Rise of Populism

Insights from Political and Psychological Sciences

Friday 23rd March 2018, 14:00-18:30
Grimond Lecture Theatre 2, University of Kent, Canterbury


Prof Alain Van Hiel (Ghent University, Professor of Social Psychology)                           The psycho-political profile of traditionalist and extreme right-wing voting

Prof Matthew Goodwin (University of Kent, Professor of  Politics and International Relations) Who joins the populist right? Examining the drivers of active involvement with a populist right party

Prof Catherine de Vries (University of Essex, Professor of Politics)                             Benchmarking Brexit: How Britain’s decision to leave shapes public opinion in the EU-27

Prof Dominic Abrams (University of Kent, Professor of Social Psychology)                      The Brexit divide: How different are brexiteers and remainers?


The symposium is free to attend for everyone, but you need to register in advance:  REGISTRATION WEBSITE

Final schedule

Time Title Speaker Affiliation
14:00-14:15 Opening remarks and Introductions Georgina Randsley de Moura Professor of Social Psychology and Head of School of Psychology
14:15-15:00 The psycho-political profile of traditionalist and extreme right-wing voting 1 Alain Van Hiel Professor of Social Psychology, Ghent University
15:00-15:45 Who joins the populist right? Examining the drivers of active involvement with a populist right party 2 Matthew Goodwin Professor of Politics and International Relations, University of Kent
15:45-16:15 Coffee Break
16:15-17:00 Benchmarking Brexit: How Britain’s decision to leave shapes public opinion in the EU-27 3  Catherine de Vries Professor of Politics, University of Essex
17:00-17:45 The Brexit divide: How different are brexiteers and remainers? 4 Dominic Abrams Professor of Social Psychology, University of Kent
17:45-18:45 Poster session + Reception

1  Alain Van Hiel
The talk will cover the personality and social psychological basis of right-wing attitudes and extremism. Furthermore, it addresses the impact of political cynicism and prejudice on voting preferences and voting behavior.    

2 Matthew Goodwin & Erik Garner Larsen

Catherine de Vries
The British decision to leave the EU shocked the political establishment in London, Brussels and beyond. I examine the possible ramifications of the Brexit vote for public support for EU membership and further integrative steps in Europe. Specifically, I argue that the Brexit vote will likely be very important for the development of public opinion towards the EU because it sets a precedent for leaving. This is because support for the EU essentially boils down to a comparison between the benefits of the current status quo of membership and those of an alternative state, namely one’s country being outside the EU. The decision of the British to leave the EU provides people with valuable information about the possible economic and political costs and benefits associated with the alternative state.

Dominic Abrams, Anne Templeton, &  Giovanni Travaglino
Much effort has gone into exploring which people voted for Brexit or Remain in the EU Referendum. Drawing on evidence from bespoke representative surveys before and after we consider both the combination of psychological influences that led to people’s vote, and also the way that the vote itself may have affected people’s relationships and perceptions of unity and division. Although successive narratives have depicted Brexiteers as being more politically conservative, ethnocentric and xenophobic, we propose a different account which argues that voters on both sides showed classic signs of intergroup prejudice but that these feelings centered around different social identities. We consider the implications of this evidence for future societal cohesion in the UK and more widely.


The poster sessions is an opportunity for Phd-, and MSc-students to present and share their own research in the field of social and political psychology. The session will happen during the break and the reception after the talks. The submission point for the poster session is now closed.  For questions about the poster session or submissions after 9 March, please contact Linus Peitz: l.l.peitz@Kent.ac.uk

 For general questions contact Dr. Kristof Dhont – K.Dhont@kent.ac.uk

This symposium is organised by members of the Political Psychology Lab and the Centre for the Study of Group Processes at the University of Kent, supported by the Eastern ARC, the Kent-Ghent international partnership fund, and the School of Psychology at Kent.