The Brexit effect: the UK citizens’ attitudes in the years following the referendum
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According to the rational choice theory, political parties seek to maximise their utility in gaining extensive support of the electorate. Hence, after the Brexit referendum 2016, the Conservative party was supposed to strategically encompass Eurosceptical policies - which correspond to the electorate’s demand - and secure its capacity to cope with the Brexit negotiations and delivering the withdrawal. In parallel, the Labour party was heavily criticised for the party leader’s vague position on the issue, insufficient and lacklustre work, and poor criticism of the Conservatives. Therefore, there is an assumption that the issue of Brexit caused aligning the two major political parties with the electorate in the context of the withdrawal. This Master’s thesis examines how the two major parties reacted to and aligned with the voters’ political demands to secure the state’s economy, control the influx of immigrants, and reform the UK-EU relations in light of Brexit. Three waves of European Social Survey data sets were selected, which made it possible to track how the two parties started encompassing the European issues in the context of the Brexit negotiations. In the logistic regression models built for 2012, 2016, and 2018, the increasing inter-parties gap, i.e. polarisation was revealed, concerning the key policy dimensions linked to the Brexit process. Over the timespan, the differentiation has become much clearer, meaning that the Conservative party - by securing its position as the party delivering Brexit - responded to the political requests of a concrete segment of the electorate demanding to “Get Brexit Done”. In opposite, the Labour party did attract voters (in the aftermath) with a lower level of economic satisfaction and rather positive attitudes towards immigrants and European integration.
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