Policy or Partisanship in the United Kingdom? Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Brexit

Journal of Politics, Forthcoming

28 Pages Posted: 16 May 2019 Last revised: 5 May 2020

See all articles by Bryan Schonfeld

Bryan Schonfeld

Princeton University, Department of Politics

Sam Winter-Levy

Princeton University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: March 28, 2019

Abstract

Are voters motivated by policy preferences or partisan identities? In this paper, we argue that the British Conservative Party's sudden change in Brexit policy (following the surprising result of the 2016 referendum on EU membership) offers a unique opportunity to study partisanship in the context of a natural experiment. Using an interrupted time series design, we find evidence that voters primarily care about policy: Europhilic Conservatives disaffiliated from the party, while Euroskeptics became more likely to identify with the Conservatives. These findings suggest that voters are sufficiently policy-motivated to change parties if they disagree with their party on important issues. But we find that partisan identities do play a role in the development of voter preferences in another issue area: voters who joined the Conservatives immediately after the referendum subsequently adopted more right-wing views on economic redistribution.

Suggested Citation

Schonfeld, Bryan and Winter-Levy, Sam, Policy or Partisanship in the United Kingdom? Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Brexit (March 28, 2019). Journal of Politics, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3373348 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3373348

Bryan Schonfeld (Contact Author)

Princeton University, Department of Politics ( email )

Princeton, NJ
United States
9737386241 (Phone)

Sam Winter-Levy

Princeton University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Corwin Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544-1013
United States

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