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Multilingualism and the Brexit Referendum

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Multilingualism and Politics

Abstract

This chapter argues that the (lack of) foreign language skills has contributed to the outcome of the Brexit referendum. Theory suggests that speaking foreign languages reduces perceptions of cultural distance and contributes to the formation of transnational identities. Research also shows a link between language skills and European identity (Kuhn 2015; Díez Medrano 2018). Did Britons’ relative lack of foreign language skills play a role in the Brexit decision? Using matching methods and data from the referendum wave of the British Election Study, it is possible to estimate the effect of foreign language skills on the referendum vote. The results suggest that a significant effect of foreign language skills remains, even when taking into account education, age, gender, income, and region, party preference, and personality differences.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    For an in-depth theoretical framework and case studies of the role of culture in language learning, see Byram (1994).

  2. 2.

    For important work in this tradition, see, for example, Calhoun (1996), Fraser (1990), and recently Strani (2010, 2014).

  3. 3.

    For respondents from Wales, the question wording is “Do you speak a language other than English (or Welsh) at conversational level”.

  4. 4.

    Table 6.3 in the appendix provides a complete comparison of standardised differences between the two groups in terms of a variety of potential confounders for both raw and matched data (using model 4 below). While there is no universally agreed cut-point, standardised differences greater than 0.25 are often considered evidence of imbalance and marked with an asterisk in the table (Rubin 2001).

  5. 5.

    Descriptions of all variables are in Table 6.3 in the appendix.

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Correspondence to Roland Kappe .

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Appendix

Appendix

Table 6.3 Variables and operationalisation
Table 6.4 Summary statistics and correlation with multilingualism and remain vote for age and personality factors
Table 6.5 Covariate balance pre- and post-matching
Fig. 6.4
figure 4

Balance plot showing common support

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Kappe, R. (2020). Multilingualism and the Brexit Referendum. In: Strani, K. (eds) Multilingualism and Politics. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-40701-8_6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-40701-8_6

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