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The Role of Personality Traits, Cooperative Behaviour and Trust in Governments on the Brexit Referendum Outcome

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Francisco ArealORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


We analyse the role of personality traits along with individuals’ cooperative behaviour, level of trust in the UK government and the European Council (EC, the body that defines the European Union’s overall political direction and priorities) and socio-demographics on UK citizens’ voting choices on the 2016 Brexit referendum. We use data from a survey conducted in April 2019 on 530 UK citizens who voted in the 2016 Brexit referendum. We use a Probit model to investigate what role voters’ personality traits, their trust in government institutions, their level of cooperative behaviour and socio-demographics played in the way they voted. We find voters’ choice was associated voters’ personality traits. In particular, voters associated with being extraverted, acting with self-confidence and outspokenness (i.e., agency), and voters’ closeness to experience, to forming part of a diverse community and the exchange of ideas and experiences were found to be associated with voting for Brexit in the 2016 referendum. We found that voters’ willingness to cooperate with others was associated with being less likely to vote for Brexit. In addition, voters who trusted the UK government were more likely to vote for Brexit, whereas voters trusting the EC were more likely to vote for the UK to stay in the EU. We also found that voters with relatively high level of education were less likely to vote for Brexit and voters not seeking jobs were more likely to vote for Brexit than students, unemployed and retired. We conclude that incorporating personality profiles of voters, their pro-social behaviour as well as their views on trust in politicians/government institutions, along with socio-demographic variables, into individuals’ vote choice analysis can account for voter heterogeneity and provide a more complete picture of an individual’s vote choice decisions, helping to gain a better understanding of individual vote choices (e.g., better predictions of future individual vote intentions).

Publication metadata

Author(s): Areal FJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Social Sciences

Year: 2021

Volume: 10

Issue: 8

Online publication date: 17/08/2021

Acceptance date: 13/08/2021

Date deposited: 25/08/2021

ISSN (electronic): 2076-0760

Publisher: MDPI AG


DOI: 10.3390/socsci10080309


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