Regional differences in values in England
North vs South or London vs the rest?
The 2016 Brexit referendum and the government’s subsequent levelling up agenda have
highlighted the significant economic and demographic differences between England’s regions. This chapter analyses the extent to which these differences contribute to regional differences in people’s underlying social and political values and what, if any, the implications of regional differences in values might be for England’s two main political parties.
People in the North and South share similar economic values
Despite people in the South tending to be better off than those in the North, there is little
evidence of differences in economic values between people living in the two regions.
- 61% people in the North can be classified as left-wing (tending to believe that economic
resources are unequally distributed and favouring their redistribution to the less well-off), compared with 56% in the South.
- 37% of people in the North can be classified as pro-welfare (believing that the state should offer a safety net for those in need), compared with 35% in the South.
- The lack of a north-south gap in economic values contrasts with earlier analysis of BSA data which found people in the North to be more left-wing and more pro-welfare.
London is more pro-welfare and liberal than the rest of England
People living in London are more likely to be pro-welfare and pro-liberal, even after taking
account of the fact that the capital’s population is younger, better educated and more
cosmopolitan, compared with other regions.
- 47% of people in London can be classified as pro-welfare, compared with 30%-37% in other English regions.
- 34% of Londoners can be classified as liberal (that is supporting the right to individual freedom over conformity to common rules and practices), compared with 20% in the South and 17% in the North.
- 47% of 18-34 year olds in London can be classed as liberal, compared with 30% of this age group in the rest of the country.
- 19% of people living in urban areas outside London can be classified as liberal (compared with 34% in London).
Labour likely to continue to dominate London, but may be vulnerable in the North
People who are left-wing, pro-welfare and liberal are more likely to support Labour, while people who are right-wing, anti-welfare and authoritarian are more likely to support the Conservatives.
- 43% of people classed as left-wing and 52% classed as liberal identify with Labour. Only 20% classed as left-wing and 8% classed as liberal identify with the Conservatives.
- 40% of Londoners, who are more likely to be liberal, are Labour Party identifiers compared with 33% in England as whole.
- 37% in the North identify with the Labour Party, compared with 26% in the South, likely reflecting past differences in values. However, the present lack of a north-south gap in economic values may provide an opportunity for the Conservatives to make headway in previous Labour strongholds.
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