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Britain’s EU referendum: How did political science rise to the challenge? An assessment of online contributions during the campaign


The Brexit referendum was an unprecedented event in the context of British politics, but it was also a defining moment for the discipline of political science. Never before had political scientists in the UK faced such demand for public engagement against the backdrop of a highly polarised electoral campaign. This article assesses how scholars met this challenge by analysing online contributions to established academic websites in the 6 months prior to the vote. It highlights that high-profile political campaigns pose a distinct dilemma for political scientists: on the one hand, the reach of their contributions is far greater when they take a positional stance on an issue, yet the value of political science rests on its credibility, which can come under threat if the public perceives the discipline, and academics more generally, to represent partisan viewpoints.

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Correspondence to Stuart A. Brown.

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Brown, S.A. Britain’s EU referendum: How did political science rise to the challenge? An assessment of online contributions during the campaign. Eur Polit Sci 18, 97–111 (2019).

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  • EU referendum
  • Impact
  • Internet
  • Media
  • Public engagement