The EU referendum and the political incorporation of immigrants to the UK

26 October 2017, 5.00 PM - 26 October 2017, 6.30 PM

G4/5, 10 Woodland Road

The Centre for Ethnicity and Citizenship Seminar Series 

Nicole Martin (University of Manchester) and Birgitta Rabe (University of Essex)

The EU referendum and the political incorporation of immigrants to the UK


Brexit is a political event that explicitly challenges the social and political rights of EU immigrants living in the UK. However, little is known about the political attitudes and engagement of this part of the population. We use new survey data from Understanding Society to understand whether the decision to leave the European Union affected European immigrants’ political behaviour and attitudes, considering the role of political context. In particular, we look at EU immigrants’ political interest, awareness of political rights and party preferences. We find large differences between EU immigrants from older EU member states and those from Accession countries, both in initial political attitudes, and in how these evolved over the course of 2016. Awareness of disenfranchisement increased in the period immediately following the referendum; but this increase was only sustained for migrants from older EU member states, while political interest increased among those from Accession countries. The Labour Party became slightly more popular, and the Conservatives fell in popularity after Brexit. However neither of these party effects persisted beyond the immediate post-referendum period. Parallels can be drawn with the mobilisation of Latino voters after ballot propositions in California that were hostile to the rights of migrants; however it remains to be seen whether this new political interest and awareness is sustained among EU immigrants in the UK.


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