Public Release: 

Brexit as much due to resistance to supranationalism as immigration

University of Kent

The UK referendum vote to leave the European Union (EU) may have had as much to do with people's distrust of international organisations as it did fear of immigration.

Researchers from the University of Kent's schools of Psychology and Politics and International Relations found that Euroscepticism is not only shaped by attitudes towards immigration and feelings of national identity but also by opposition towards UK involvement in transnational organisations such as the EU.

Supranationalism is defined as the transfer of power from the national to the supranational level, leading to increased dependence on foreign political partners and increased social and cultural exchange.

Led by Dr Kristof Dhont, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, the team considered study respondents' ideological predispositions, particularly preferences for cultural traditions and loyalty to national authority (termed right-wing authoritarianism) and a desire for group-based dominance and hierarchy in society (social dominance orientation) to see whether these predicted negative attitudes towards international institutions.

They found that people with higher levels of both these characteristics in their ideological outlook were less supportive of supranationalism, were more Eurosceptic, and found it more important that the UK 'takes back control'.

This manifested itself in a preference for 'prioritizing control' in any post-Brexit scenario among those with a negative attitude towards the concept of supranationalism. This included 'bringing back control of our laws to Parliament' and 'bringing back control of decisions over immigration to the UK'.

Another indicator was age, with older respondents also more likely to have a negative attitude towards the concept of supranationalism.


The study, entitled The Psychology of Supranationalism: Its ideological correlates and implications for EU attitudes and post-Brexit preferences (Linus Peitz, Kistof Dhont, and Ben Seyd) is published in the journal Political Psychology. See:

For more information or interview and picture requests contact Martin Herrema at the University of Kent Press Office.

Tel: 01227 816768


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Notes to editors

Established in 1965, the University of Kent - the UK's European university - now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.

It has been ranked 22nd in the Guardian University Guide 2018 and 25th in the Complete University Guide 2018, and in June 2017 was awarded a gold rating, the highest, in the UK Government's Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, it is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world. The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its 'Table of Tables' 2016.

Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.

In the National Student Survey 2016, Kent achieved the fourth highest score for overall student satisfaction, out of all publicly funded, multi-faculty universities. Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium (

The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.

Kent has received two Queen's Anniversary prizes for Higher and Further Education.

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