Princeton University Library Catalog

In Splendid Isolation: Understanding Affective Euroscepticism in the United Kingdom during the EU Referendum

Clarke, McKenzie [Browse]
Senior thesis
Davis, Christina [Browse]
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
Class year:
Summary note:
On June 23rd, 2016, the United Kingdom held a referendum on whether or not it should remain a member of the European Union — contrary to expert opinion and against the wishes of many international political elites, the British voted to ‘Brexit’, or, leave the EU. The outcome of the vote sparked widespread discussion over the future of public policy and the international public order, leaving many scholars wondering if this decision was a reactionary backlash against the current age of economic and political globalization, and the start of its demise. On the opposing side of this proposition, others believe the vote to be symbolic of a nostalgic reach into the past, to reclaim the British identity and historic global eminence it enjoyed during its age of imperialism. This thesis, however, asserts that neither of these claims can wholly account for the array of discontents incited by globalization; instead, it conceptualizes Brexit as a manifestation of Euroscepticism, reframing the result as a direct response to the European project of integration. In doing so, this research examines the extent to which affective or utilitarian Euroscepticism may explain the decision to leave the EU, using survey data collected on public attitudes towards the referendum and the Union more generally. Overall, the findings support the hypothesis that affective Euroscepticism was significantly related to Brexit — which is not surprising given the strong ties to national identity and sovereignty found in the UK — and suggest that similar domestic cultural affinities must be accounted for when thinking about the future success of European integration (and, by proxy, globalization).