Political and Social Change

As part of the University’s 50th Anniversary, we commenced a series of studies exploring the social psychology of political attitudes and voting intentions of a wide range of people. In fact, our team began work on these questions back in the 1980s, when we examined Scottish young people’s attitudes to Scottish independence to predict whether they would support the SNP. We recently tested and found that many of the same factors have influenced voting intentions of a similar age group during the recent Scottish referendum.

In 2015 we invited 18-year-olds from secondary schools in Kent to give us their views both about the political situation in Kent and in Scotland.

Then, shortly before the EU referendum in 2016 we initiated new surveys of representative samples of 1,000 people in both Kent and Scotland to try to understand the adult electorate’s views about leaving the EU and about the situation in both countries. Complementing the snapshots provided by various opinion polls this evidence gives us a unique and quite detailed window on the changing landscape of social and political attitudes that will stand in the historical record for years to come.

This evidence can be used for comparison and analysis by future generations of researchers, scholars, schools and the media. It may also help to inform government policy on issues such as whether the voting age should be reduced. As the project has progressed we have been presenting some of our findings to local, national and international audiences and we are also writing papers and will put occasional blogs on this site that can be used by schools and others who wish to use the topics and themes for discussion and analysis for teaching and learning.

The county of Kent is a fascinating context for studying political and social change. Kent’s ports represent some of the major conduits though which both goods and people cross from Europe to the UK and back. But in terms of people’s attitudes, Kent is very much ‘on the border’ on issues such as immigration and asylum policy. It has communities within it that are strongly pro-European and others that are clearly more sceptical or resistant to ties with Europe.

All of our research undergoes ethical scrutiny and vetting and has to receive ethical approval from the School of Psychology Ethics Panel. This assures that the research abides by the rules of the British Psychological Society. The research is not supported by or related to any political party and is being conducted to establish objective evidence purely for education and research purposes.