Euroscepticism is increasingly important to the shaping and understanding of contemporary European public opinion and politics. The origins of the trait, however, particularly the values that predispose individuals to view the European Union (EU) as a legitimate (or otherwise) political institution, remain poorly understood. Literature on political socialization identifies the family as a vital influence on the development of many social and political attitudes. This study explores the role of the family in the development of Euroscepticism by examining evidence of intergenerational transmission of hostility towards membership of the EU between parents and children in the United Kingdom during its ‘Brexit referendum’. The study shows that the attitudes of parents during one’s politically formative years can be an important factor in shaping support for EU membership. It also finds that this intergenerational transmission is different for mothers and fathers: while there is a greater likelihood of a child’s attitudes being affected by those of their father, if they are affected by their mother’s views they are more likely to eventually share their mother’s position on EU membership. This identifies the family as a key source of the values that shape support for European integration, potentially accelerating or opposing other social trends that have resulted in successive generations typically being more supportive of EU membership.
Published: February 2019