Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 29 Issue 1 (January 2019), Pages 1-77

The use of the political categories of Brexiter and Remainer in online comments about the EU referendum (pages 43-55)

Abstract In June 2016, the United Kingdom held a referendum on EU membership; 52% of those who voted, voted to leave, and 48% voted to remain. During the referendum campaign, two identities emerged: “Brexiter” and “Remainer,” which remained salient post‐referendum. This study explores how the categories of Brexiter and Remainer were deployed by posters online. Data comprise comment threads collected from four online newspapers both during the campaign and after the vote, which focus on the Brexit campaign promise: “We send £350m a week to the EU. Let's fund our NHS instead.” We draw on membership categorization analysis and discursive psychology to analyse when categories were made salient and what responses to the invocation of categories were. Analysis revealed that posters explicitly categorize the out‐group and in doing so implicitly define their group. Posters resisted other political identities when attributed to them in relation to the referendum. The analysis shows how Brexiter and Remainer are new, albeit contested, political categories and identities in their own right, with other political identities resisted when used. The paper highlights implications for the political system in the United Kingdom and for social divisions within U.K. society.

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