People who live for the routine and fear uncertainty are more likely to think conservatively and have voted for Brexit, a study from the University of Cambridge suggests.
The research argues that those who backed the Vote Leave's call to "take back control" during the EU referendum reported "greater reliance on routines and traditions in their daily lives, and who strongly favoured certainty over uncertainty".
Participants in the study were asked whether they agreed with the statement – originally made by Prime Minister Theresa May – that “a citizen of the world is a citizen of nowhere” and opposed the statement “the government has a right to remain in the EU if the costs are too high”.
Those who did were more likely to exhibit cognitive persistence, which is associated with support for traditional social values and conservative political attitudes.
“Voting is often thought to be an emotional decision. People describe voting with their heart or having a gut reaction to particular politicians,” said Leor Zmigrod, lead researcher and Gates Cambridge Scholar.
“The results suggest that psychological preferences for stability and consistency may translate into attitudes that favour uniformity and a more defined national identity," he added.
With just 332 participants, researchers have stressed that the sample size is limited, and the correlations – while strong – are on general trends in the data.
“Ideologies such as nationalism are highly complex constructs, and there are many reasons people believe what they do and vote the way they do,” added Zmigrod.
“[But] in todays politically-polarised climate, it is important to understand more about the psychological processes behind nationalistic and social attitudes if we are to build bridges between communities.”