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For and Against Brexit: A Survey Experiment of the Impact of Campaign Effects on Public Attitudes toward EU Membership

  • Matthew Goodwin, Simon Hix and Mark Pickup
Abstract

What are the lessons of the 2016 referendum on UK membership of the European Union (EU) regarding the effects of message framing? This article reports findings from an innovative online survey experiment based on a two-wave panel design. The findings show that, despite the expectation that campaign effects are generally small for high-salience issues – such as Brexit – the potential for campaign effects was high for the pro-EU frames. This suggests that within an asymmetrical information environment – in which the arguments for one side of an issue (anti-EU) are ‘priced in’, while arguments for the other side (pro-EU) have been understated – the potential for campaign effects in a single direction are substantial. To the extent that this environment is reflected in other referendum campaigns, the potential effect of pro-EU frames may be substantial.

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Copyright
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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School of Politics and International Relations, University of Kent (email: m.j.goodwin@kent.ac.uk); Department of Government, London School of Economics and Political Science (email: s.hix@lse.ac.uk); Department of Political Science, Simon Fraser University (email: mark.pickup@sfu.ca). This research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council’s ‘UK In a Changing Europe’ programme, with some additional funding from the University of Kent and the London School of Economics. The authors would like to thank J. Scott Matthews and Sara B. Hobolt for their helpful comments. The article also benefited from the comments made by those in attendance at the Nuffield Politics Seminar, the 2016 European Political Science Association meeting and the LSE Political Behaviour seminar. Data replication sets are available in Harvard Dataverse at: https://dx.doi.org/doi:10.7910/DVN/PZB01G and online appendices at https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007123417000667.

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British Journal of Political Science
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  • EISSN: 1469-2112
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