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Losers’ consent and emotions in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum

Tilley, James and Hobolt, Sara (2023) Losers’ consent and emotions in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum. West European Politics. ISSN 0140-2382

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Identification Number: 10.1080/01402382.2023.2168945


The willingness of voters on the losing side to accept electoral outcomes – losers’ consent – is essential to democratic legitimacy. This article examines the role of emotions in shaping people’s perceptions of electoral fairness, arguing that voters on the losing side who feel angry are less willing to accept democratic outcomes. This is examined in the context of the 2016 Brexit referendum, as well as the 2019 UK general election, using original survey data and an experiment in which specific emotional responses (anger and happiness) are induced to test the causal effect of emotions. The results show that losers who felt angry about an electoral outcome are less likely to accept the legitimacy of the democratic process and that anger has a causal effect in reducing losers’ consent. These findings suggest that politicians may be able to influence voters’ faith in democracy by mobilising emotional responses.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 The Authors
Divisions: Government
Subjects: J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Date Deposited: 17 Jan 2023 16:06
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2024 17:30

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