NEWS30 June 2020

Study finds big values gap between MPs and voters

News Public Sector UK

UK – Almost three-quarters of British voters think ‘there is one law for the rich and one law for the poor', compared with 5% of Tory MPs, according to a study from The UK in a Changing Europe.

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The paper analysed the values of the Labour and Conservative party members, MPs and voters, finding that that Labour members and MPs are aligned with voters on economic issues but there is a disconnect when it comes to social values, while the opposite is true for the Conservatives.

Data collection for the report was conducted prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, including a survey of Labour and Tory members and activists after the 2019 general election and a survey of MPs at the start of this year. Voter values were analysed using data from the British Election Study, with fieldwork carried out in November 2019.

Respondents were asked two sets of questions on underlying, stable, ideological attitudes on economic values and ‘liberal-authoritarian attitudes’.

Fewer than a quarter ( 22%) of Tory party members, and 5% of Tory MPs, agreed with the statement ‘there is one law for the rich and one for the poor’, compared with 73% of the public, 71% of Labour MPs and 92% of Labour members.

Two-thirds of 66% of the public agreed that ‘ordinary working people do not get their fair share of the nation’s wealth’, which was a view held by all the surveyed Labour MPs surveyed for the research, and 95% of Labour members.

The study also found that the average British adult supports income redistribution – unlike the average Tory member or MP – just not with the same overwhelming enthusiasm as Labour members and MPs.

Philip Cowley, professor of politics, Queen Mary University of London said: “The fact Conservative MPs so strongly reject widespread perceptions of structural unfairness hints at the challenge the Johnson government will face if the shock of Covid-19 triggers public demand for economic redistribution and reform. If a sense ‘there is one law for the rich and one for the poor’ begins to take hold, then the gap between Conservative Party people and voters could prove deeply problematic for the Johnson government.”

On social values, the research found that almost two-thirds of the public agreed that ‘young people do not have respect for traditional values’, a view held by 44% of Tory MPs and 9% of Labour MPs.

Additionally, 70% of the public agree that those who break the law should get tougher sentences, which is close to the 66% of Tory MPs who agree.

Professor Tim Bale, deputy director of the UK in a Changing Europe, said: “If the economic downturn that many are forecasting can be persuasively blamed on Covid-19 and social and cultural values therefore remain at the forefront of political debate, then only one party – the Conservative Party – looks likely to benefit. No wonder some top Tories are said to be pressing the PM to launch a so-called ‘war on woke’.”


Ipsos Mori conducted a representative survey of MPs ( 99 MPs, drawn from a pool of 134 interviews in January-February 2020 ); the latest in a series of MPs surveys conducted by The UK in a Changing Europe and the Mile End Institute.

To gauge the views of members and activists, the researchers used data from polling conducted by YouGov for the ESRC-funded Party Members Project run by Queen Mary University of London and Sussex University in the immediate aftermath of the 2019 general election (December 2019 ).

The values of voters – a representative sample of British adults – were analysed using data from the British Election Study. The researchers used wave 17 (fieldwork November 2019 ) for the attitudinal questions, and questions from waves 6 (June 2016 ), 13 (June 2017 ) and 19 (December 2019 ) for voting in the 2016 referendum and 2017 and 2019 general elections respectively.