IGS Conference Examines Forces Behind Brexit, Trump

speaker at Brexit Trump conference
September 7, 2017

The year 2016 was a tumultuous time in US and UK politics:  British voters chose to exit the EU and American voters elected Donald Trump as president. On August 30th 2017, the Anglo-American Studies Program at the Institute of Governmental Studies sponsored a day-long conference, Brexit-Trump: What’s Next for the US, UK and EU? The theme of the conference was to examine the forces that brought about Brexit and the election of President Trump. Our co-sponsors were the British Politics Group of the American Political Science Association, the Hansard Society, and the Center for British Studies.

The first panel examined the rise of Donald Trump to win his party’s nomination, the main determinants of the general election outcome, and the role of Latinos in the 2016 presidential election.  The second panel examined the similarities between Trump and Brexit voters and the larger meaning of the election outcomes. The last panel analyzed the consequences of Brexit for Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the NATO alliance.

We were very honored to welcome San Francisco’s British Consul General Andrew Whittaker to the conference. He introduced our two keynote speakers, David Brady and Doug Rivers, both professors at Stanford University.

Brady focused mostly on understanding the political attitudes of Trump voters. Trump Republicans, on the whole adopt a more populist mindset, seeing more influence of special interests than Non-Trump Republicans and Democrats.  They are also much more likely to distrust universities and the media. Trump supporters are also much less supportive of policies that provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants than their Non-Trump Republican counterparts.  One of the most shocking results of Brady’s presentation was how much party affects evaluation of how well the economy is doing. After Trump’s election, Republican perceptions that the economy was in good shape jumped from 15% to 80%, while Democratic respondents’ perceptions of the economy doing well sunk from 60% to 25%.  From Brady’s data, Trump has further exacerbated partisan polarization in the United States. 

Rivers showed that Trump and Clinton voters adopted different worldviews. Republicans gravitated toward a “drawbridges up” protective stance, while Democrats tended to support a “drawbridges down” worldview, favoring a more liberal immigration policy. In the UK, voters split along party lines on these worldviews as well. Immigration, as featured in the campaigns for Brexit and Trump, has become an issue that polarizes parties in both the UK and the US.

To cap off the daylong conference, there was a reception sponsored by the Hansard Society and the British Politics Group in the Institute of Governmental Studies courtyard.

All papers from the conference can be found on the IGS website under the resources tab: https://www.igs.berkeley.edu/events/brexit-and-trump-whats-next-for-the-uk-eu-and-us