Part 1: Psychology Within Politics – The EU Referendum

Part 1: Psychology Within Politics – The EU Referendum

by Daisy Sunderalingam - 8th June, 2016


Stronger Together & Stronger Apart

On 23rd June Britain will be voting to remain or leave the European Union.  At present, polls demonstrate a divide with those wanting to stay ‘in’ the EU slightly trumping those who want ‘out’.  Below are some leading arguments from both camps, interpreted using psychological research.


Those that want to remain in the EU claim ‘we are stronger as part of the world’s largest market’.  These statements can develop a strong group identification within the British public in relation to the EU.  It is therefore assumed that this ‘in-group identification’ can influence voters to want to vote to stay as part of the European Union.  Further to this, through enforcing the positives of Britain’s membership it can create a desire to ‘remain’ and oppose Britain’s independence.  For instance, the now infamous speech from Barack Obama suggesting Britain would be at the “back of the queue” concerning trade deals with the rest of the world, reinforces the negative connotations of independence as well as a fear of missing out on a global scale.

In addition, the ‘remain’ campaigners are emphasising a sense of security by summarising the positive experiences and opportunities of Britain’s membership, such as the assertion that 1 in 10 British jobs are directly connected to Britain’s involvement in the EU.  Work is a central element for many people and jobs are not only sources of income but also provide a social life and for some, professional progression as well as personal development.  The possibility that these significant resources could be lost can reinforce a feeling of ‘job insecurity’, which can lead to resistance to change, among other reactions.  Therefore, the assertion that taking away membership will have an adverse effect on the number of jobs could make people less likely to vote to leave the EU.


On the contrary, campaigners against membership argue that we hold less power as part of the EU.  In relation to laws made overseas, those opposed to Britain’s affiliation maintain that Britain must ‘regain its power’, for one, by having UK courts become independent again.  Those against the EU membership make the case that for Britain to be effective we must dismiss the processes of the EU that are holding a ‘capable’ Britain back.  ‘Leave’ promoters utilise the Scandinavian countries outside of the EU as examples of success, and aim to convince people to identify more with this ‘out-group’ (those not part of the EU), than with the current ‘in-group’ – the EU.  By expressing the possibility of achieving the same as those outside of the EU, those wishing to ‘leave’ are hoping to abolish favouritism for EU membership amongst voters, and substitute this with a desire to be united with successful non-EU countries.

Daisy Sunderalingam

Daisy Sunderalingam

I am an aspiring Clinical Psychologist hoping to complete a PhD in Clinical Psychology in the near future. Last year I graduated with a First Class Honours BSc in Psychology, currently I am studying for an MSc in Occupational Psychology. Once qualified I plan to combine Clinical and Occupational to provide interventions for those suffering with neurodiversity and physical disabilities, with the objective to help these individuals successfully enter the world of employment.

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