Go Your Own Way: The Pathways to Exiting the European Union

Anders Ejrnæs, Mads Dagnis Jensen*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Studies have suggested that people voting for Brexit were motivated by anti-globalization, anti-multiculturalism and anti-elite sentiments. However, little is known about how these factors are related and whether citizens in other member states share similar reasons for wanting to exit the EU. Methodologically, this question is addressed by utilizing path models on data from the European Social Survey, with respondents in 17 countries. Empirically, this article reveals considerable cross-country variation, which implies that motivations for voting Leave should be assessed on a country-by-country basis. Yet, two main pathways are identified. First, lower education is related to more negative attitudes towards multiculturalism, which increases the probability of voting Leave. Second, lower income decreases the level of trust in the political establishment, which again increases the probability of voting Leave. Theoretically, this implies that the anti-globalization model is subsumed by the anti-multiculturalism and anti-elite models, giving rise to two new mechanisms.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGovernment and Opposition
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)253-275
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Published online: 10. February 2021.


  • Euroscepticism
  • Brexit
  • Opinion formation
  • European Union

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