Former coal mining areas less likely to vote for nationalist parties, study finds
Communities in former coal mining areas are less likely to vote for nationalist or populist parties, according to a study.
Researchers from Cardiff Business School and the University of Cambridge suggested that the ‘modern Left” is losing voters in those areas to “apathy and cynicism”, not other parties.
Those voters are less likely to vote for Plaid Cymru, the SNP or UKIP, than those in other areas with similar social and economic struggles, the researchers found. This is despite them being more likely to support Leave in the EU referendum.
The study also found that people in former coalmining areas areas are now more politically disenchanted, with residents less likely to vote, than other communities experiencing similar levels of deprivation.
It investigated the attitudes of residents who lived in areas that used to be reliant on the coal industry, and their responses were compared to those who lived in similarly deprived areas that were not.
It revealed that people who live in former coal mining communities are less likely to agree that “democracy works well”, and do not believe themselves to be “qualified” or “well informed” about politics.
They were also more likely to agree that they have “little say in what government does” and that “public officials don’t care”.
Dr Maria Abreu, from Cambridge’s Department of Land Economy said: “It seems that the modern Left may not have lost the people in former mining communities to populism or emerging nationalist parties, but rather apathy and cynicism.
In the article published by Applied Geography, co-authors Dr Maria Abreu and Dr Calvin Jones from Cardiff Business School wrote: “Taken together, our results point towards communities that are distrustful of the government, feel they have little power to influence government decisions, and have low levels of political engagement.”
Dr Maria Abreu said: “Narratives of decline loom large in the current identity of old mining areas, even though the working lives of most residents started long after the pits closed,” said study co-author
“For people in communities that saw sudden and rapid economic decay, there appears to be an increased insularity and distrust of political systems compared to those who are also deprived, but do not have a shared local history of decline.”
Dr Calvin Jones from Cardiff Business School said: “It’s been over thirty years since large numbers of people went underground for work, plenty of time for strong social relationships to dwindle.
“Loss of solidarity among these communities may have been compounded by austerity in recent years.”
“However, it is also possible that the other deprived communities to which we compared former mining areas – from housing estates to rundown seaside towns – actually have higher levels of social cohesion than might be expected.”
To define former coalmining communities, the study’s co-authors used 1981 census data to identify areas where at least 10% of adult males had been employed in the “Energy and Water” sector. This was overlaid with geological maps to whittle down to those neighbourhoods within 10 miles of bedrock coal deposits.
Particular concentrations of those kinds of areas found in the south of Wales, northeast England and Tyneside, the Lanarkshire coalfields, the south of Glasgow, and the midlands between Nottingham and Leeds.
The study used data from the UK Longitudinal Household Survey from 2009-2019.