First, the good news. The British see inequality as a major problem and are largely divided along traditional political lines in their attitudes towards it. Then, the bad news. Brits are also inclined to see inequalities as being driven by individual behavior as much as by social policy or structural factors.
So suggests Unequal Britain, a new study on public attitudes towards inequality published last week by the Policy Institute at King’s College London. It is a fascinating deep dive into the perceptions of both problems and solutions.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the study is how much people’s attitudes reflect old-fashioned left-right politics. The current mantra today is that left-versus-right politics is no longer important and that cultural divisions are more significant. The Brexit gap – Leave v Remain – has become a shortcut for thinking about these kinds of divisions. Unequal Britain shows why such claims, while reflecting real developments, should still be treated with caution.
Most people, regardless of political affiliation, see geographical inequalities and inequalities of income and wealth as serious problems that need to be addressed. But beyond that, attitudes towards inequality are framed by broader political leanings.
Three times more Labor voters than Conservative voters believe Britain was “very unequal” before the pandemic. Labor is closer to Labor than Conservative on most issues of inequality. Two-thirds …