Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Readings on Brexit

Below are some useful readings on the Brexit vote by different scholars & journalists. In short, the big debate over right-wing populism is between an economic perspective arguing that the 'losers of globalization' (roughly, those with lower education and 'human capital' have suffered economic losses as a result of globalization, and right-wing populists are capturing their support by promising to undo these changes) and a psychological perspective arguing that people with a worldview oriented towards order, security, and social cohesion are at the heart of right-wing populist support. The last two articles offer broader perspectives from a leading economist and social psychologist, respectively. As with most academic debates, these alternative perspectives are presented rather starkly, when the truth is more nuanced.

White face, blue collar, grey hair: the 'left behind' voters only UKIP understands, by Rob Ford & Matt Goodwin: Written in 2014, a good primer on their 'left behind' thesis (one could also term this the 'losers of globalization' argument) driving rising right-wing populism in Britain.

Inequality, not personalities, drove Britain to Brexit, by Matt Goodwin: In a similar vein, arguing that the Leave vote was won in the 'left behind' communities of Britain: old, struggling working class areas and failing seaside communities.

Right-Wing Populism is Prevailing in Left-Wing Strongholds Around the World, by Nate Cohn: The strongest results for Leave came in traditional Labour strongholds, while Trump has also done well in old working-class areas in places like PA. This would seem to be consistent with the 'losers of globalization' argument.

Ethnic Dimension to Birmingham's Vote, by Martin Rosenbaum: Shows that the demonstrated findings between educational qualifications and Leave vote hold only for white voters. This raises an important challenge to the 'losers of globalization' argument: it only holds among white voters.

It's NOT the Economy, Stupid: Brexit as a Story of Personal Values, by Eric Kaufman: Demonstrates that authoritarian values explain the Leave vote better than economic concerns.

Euroscepticism is rooted in a broader worldview that includes higher levels of nationalism and hostility to 'outsiders', by Academic With Head Up His Arse*: Argues that authoritarianism predicts a broad syndrome of attitudes, including exclusive nationalism, hostility to immigrants, and anti-EU attitudes.

The Personality of Brexit Voters, by Joachim Kruger: Similar findings to the previous two articles, using the 'Big Five' personality measure of Openness (which correlates negatively with authoritarianism) to explain Leave votes.

Fear of Immigration Drove the Brexit Vote, Not Immigration Itself, by Alan Travis: Good point that the highest-immigration areas typically supported Remain. This would tend to be consistent with an argument rooted in values/worldview, rather than economic anxieties.

Britain's EU Referendum: A Sign of Changing Electoral Divides, by Intolerant Leftist*: Drawing on these previous arguments, I argue that we are seeing a realignment of party loyalties from an older class alignment to one based increasingly on values/worldview.

When and Why Nationalism Beats Globalism, by Jonathan Haidt: This is a very good article weaving together political science research on post-material value change, globalization, and authoritarianism are interacting to generate a nationalist backlash. Ties together the previous two articles with a broader account of post-WWII value change.

The Abdication of the Left, by Dani Rodrik: Good perspective on how the center-left has failed to offer a viable alternative to 'hyperglobalization,' leading to nationalist (in countries that have experienced high immigration) and/or radical left (in countries that have experienced IMF/EU austerity) backlashes.

Educated Preferences or Selection Effects?, by Bram Lancee & Oriane Sarrasin: This interesting academic study offers another possible resolution to the economic/psychological debate. Past research has argued that higher education has a 'liberalizing' effect on individuals' attitudes towards issues like immigration. The researchers here (using data from Switzerland) find that teenagers with more liberal attitudes are more likely to go to university. This suggests that education itself has little 'liberalizing' effect; rather, there is some sort of selection effect between one's worldview/values and educational choices--which affect later life income expectancy. This could explain why those who are most intolerant (per the psychological arguments) towards immigrants are also more likely to be 'left behind' (per the economic argument). More research is needed, of course!


* These are things I've been called on Twitter, one by a former student.