Updating the Social Norm and Hate Crime: The Case of the Brexit Referendum


Social and political events impact xenophobic expressions. We show that, in the context of the Brexit referendum, the observed increment in hate crime was more pronounced in more pro-remain areas. We argue that the referendum revealed new information that affected the social norm. In a model where individuals conform to imperfectly observed norms, a referendum influenced by preferences over immigration can legitimize xenophobic attitudes. At the margin, some of these expressions involve hate crime. Survey data corroborate the uncovered facts and support our theoretical mechanisms. An estimation of the model replicates the evolution of hate crime and delivers an estimation of the importance of conformity.