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Do Labels Polarise? Theory and Evidence from the Brexit Referendum

Lee Savu, A. and Alexandru
Authors registered in the RePEc Author Service: Su-Min Lee

Cambridge Working Papers in Economics from Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge

Abstract: Why has geographical political polarisation increased in recent times? We propose a theoretical social learning mechanism whereby policy preferences become more homogeneous within geographical units, yet increasingly heterogeneous between units over time as voters become better informed on the views of those in their vicinity. To study our model’s predictions, we exploit the delayed implementation of Brexit and its salience in the elections following the 2016 referendum. Analysing constituency-level longitudinal-data, we find that voters updated their Brexit views after observing the referendum’s local results, and acted upon their new beliefs in the following elections. We document a two percentage-point relative decrease in the (anti-Brexit) Liberal Democrat vote share in constituencies where Leave narrowly won, mirrored by an increase for the Conservatives. Our findings have implications for how group-based identities form more broadly.

Keywords: Elections; Brexit; Local Contextual Effects; Information; Social Learning; Political Attitudes (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D71 D72 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022-04-11
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cdm, nep-int, nep-pol, nep-soc and nep-ure
Note: sml56, ams269
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:cam:camdae:2227

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