Litmus test or lightning rod?


This chapter considers two popular explanations for the vote by the British public in June
2016 to leave the EU.

The first is that the vote reflects the concerns of more ‘authoritarian’, socially conservative voters about the social consequences of EU membership – and especially about immigration.

The second is that the vote was occasioned by general public disenchantment with politics.

The chapter suggests that the first of these two provides the better explanation. The EU referendum can therefore be characterised as a litmus test of the merits of the EU project, and perhaps of globalisation more generally, rather than as a lightning rod for wider political discontent.

Download the chapter.



We are more Eurosceptic than ever, with long term trends in Euroscepticism continuing to
rise after the referendum in June 2016.

Post Brexit, Britain is more Eurosceptic than ever


Author: John Curtice, Research Consultant, The National Centre for Social Research, and Professor of Politics, University of Strathclyde