Can the ‘downward spiral’ of material conditions, mental health and faith in government be stopped? Evidence from surveys in ‘red wall’ constituencies

Johnson, Matthew, Johnson, Elliott, Reed, Howard and Nettle, Daniel (2023) Can the ‘downward spiral’ of material conditions, mental health and faith in government be stopped? Evidence from surveys in ‘red wall’ constituencies. The British Journal of Politics and International Relations. p. 136914812211468. ISSN 1369-1481 (In Press)

Text (Advance online version)
13691481221146886.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.

Download (929kB) | Preview
Revised Manuscript.pdf - Accepted Version

Download (256kB) | Preview
Can_the_downward_spiral_of_material_conditions_mental_health_and_faith_in_government_be_stopped.pdf - Submitted Version

Download (256kB) | Preview
Official URL:


If policy preferences follow material interests, the experience of socioeconomic disadvantage ought to increase support for redistributive policies. However, experiencing disadvantage might also reduce faith in government’s ability to make things better, indirectly reducing support for redistributive action, and leading to a spiral of widening disadvantage and increasing political disengagement. Indeed, disadvantaged communities sometimes favour right-wing platforms over those offering redistribution, as in the taking of ‘red wall’ constituencies in the North and Midlands of England by the UK Conservative party in 2019. This article uses quantitative data from a survey of ‘red wall’ voters (n=805) to examine the bases of people’s perceptions of redistributive policies. We find that even a radical redistributive policy, Universal Basic Income (UBI), receives consistently high levels of support (69.45 s.d. 27.24). Lower socioeconomic status, greater financial distress and greater risk of destitution all increase support. These effects are partly mediated by mental distress, which is markedly higher among the less well off. However, the same socioeconomic factors also reduce faith in government, which in turn is associated with lower support. Thus, those who stand to benefit most from redistribution are aware of their material interests, but are also the least confident in the ability of government to improve their lives. As such, there is a clear political challenge for progressive politicians: those whose support they depend upon require a significant redistributive offer, but also need to be persuaded of the viability of reform to support progressive change.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding information: The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by the Wellcome Trust under Grant 223553/Z/21/Z. For the purpose of open access, the author has applied a CC BY public copyright licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising from this submission.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Redistribution, socioeconomic disadvantage, right-wing parties, red wall, Labour Party
Subjects: L200 Politics
L900 Others in Social studies
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Social Sciences
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 29 Nov 2022 14:13
Last Modified: 27 Jan 2023 15:45

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics