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A tale of two peoples: motivated reasoning in the aftermath of the Brexit Vote

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 December 2020

Miriam Sorace*
School of Politics and International Relations, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, UK
Sara Binzer Hobolt
European Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK
*Corresponding author. Email:


Partisanship is a powerful driver of economic perceptions. Yet we know less about whether other political divisions may lead to similar evaluative biases. In this paper, we explore how the salient divide between “Remainers” and “Leavers” in the UK in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum has given rise to biased economic perceptions. In line with the cognitive dissonance framework, we argue that salient non-partisan divisions can change economic perceptions by triggering processes of self- and in-group justification. Using both nationally-representative observational and experimental survey data, we demonstrate that the perceptions of the economy are shaped by the Brexit divide and that these biases are exacerbated when respondents are reminded of Brexit. These findings indicate that perceptual biases are not always rooted in partisanship, but can be triggered by other political divisions.

Original Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the European Political Science Association

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