James Tilley

BA DPhil (Oxon)

Professor of Politics, DPIR
Fellow, Jesus College
Government and Politics Network
Jesus College


I work primarily in the fields of public opinion and electoral behaviour, with a focus on Britain and the EU. My research over the last decade or so has had three main themes.

First, trying to explain the circumstances in which voters blame some governments for policy failures, but are willing to absolve other governments of responsibility for exactly the same problems. In 2014, I published a book, with Sara Hobolt (LSE), that examines these questions at the EU level called Blaming Europe: Responsibility without accountability in the European Union. Second, trying to explain the changing role of social cleavages (class and religion) in predicting party choice. In 2017, I published, with Geoff Evans (Oxford), The New Politics of Class: The political exclusion of the British working class. This documents how changes to the British political parties over the last 60 years depressed class voting and increased working class abstention. Third, and more recently, trying to understand the creation of political identity groups, especially the emergence of ‘Remainers’ and ‘Leavers’ after the EU referendum in 2016. There are various strands to this research, but most focus on testing the relative importance of innate personality traits and socialisation in explaining why party and Brexit identities are more central for some people than others. I am currently working on a book with Sara Hobolt (LSE) which brings together much of this research.

I also have continuing research interests in: how ageing affects political attitudes; Northern Irish electoral behaviour; and the relationship between personality traits and political behaviour.


  • Political Sociology (lectures and tutorials for PPE/HP).

  • Prelims Politics (tutorials for PPE/HP).

  • Comparative Government (classes for MPhil students).


I occasionally do some media things. In particular, I have written and presented some radio documentaries for BBC Radio 4 as below.

2024: 'The Kids Are Alt-Right?'. This had five parts: episode 1 (What's Going On?); episode 2 (Getting Older); episode 3 (The Next Generation); episode 4 (The Marketplace of Politics); and episode 5 (None of the Above).
2022: 'What's the Point of Protesting?'.
2021: 'Personality Politics'.
2020: 'Do Voters Need Therapy?'.
2019: 'Let's Raise the Voting Age!' and 'Conspiracy Politics'.
2018: 'The Dictator's Survival Guide'. A different version of this, called 'How Do Dictators Survive So Long?', also appeared on the World Service.
2017: ‘Primate Politics’, after which I ended up talking chimpanzees with Iain Duncan Smith on the Daily Politics. A shorter version of this, called 'What Can Chimps Teach Us About Politics?', also appeared on the World Service.

James Tilley