Ex-mining communities were found to be more likely to vote Leave in the EU referendumWikimedia Commons

A study by researchers from the University of Cambridge and Cardiff Business School has found that communities in former mining areas have less faith in politics than other communities experiencing similar levels of deprivation.

The study, which used data from the UK Longitudinal Household Survey from 2009-2019, investigated the attitudes of residents who lived in areas that had been reliant on the coal industry. Their responses were compared to those who lived in similarly deprived areas, but ones that weren’t underpinned by the coal industry. 

The study revealed that former coal mining communities are less likely to agree that “democracy works well” and that they do not believe themselves to be “qualified” or “well informed” about politics. Additionally, they were more likely to agree that “public officials don’t care” and that they have “little say in what government does”.

In the article published by Applied Geography, co-authors Dr Maria Abreu from Cambridge’s Department of Land Economy 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.”


Mountain View

Cambridge study shows more than half of people in England are sceptical of government’s ‘Levelling up’ strategy

Ex-mining communities were found to be marginally more likely to vote Leave in the EU referendum. Although the issue of Brexit did cause an increase in political engagement during the referendum campaign, levels remained lower than those in similarly disadvantaged areas and have since decreased.

The findings of the study also challenge cultural perceptions of a greater “community spirit” in areas with a history of coal mining: feelings of neighbourhood belonging and community cohesion were found to be similar to those in comparable areas. Residents were more risk-averse and less inclined to trust strangers, as well as reporting lower levels of mental health.

The researchers identified the areas to be studied by selecting neighbourhoods which had at least 10% of adult males working in the “Energy and Water” sector in 1981 and were within 10 miles of coal deposits. Many of these communities can be found in areas across the north of England and the midlands, as well as in South Wales and Lanarkshire in Scotland.

Despite the apparent negative feelings towards the established political landscape, respondents from these communities were still less likely to vote for newer nationalist and populist parties, such as the SNP, Plaid Cymru and UKIP, than those from equally socio-economically deprived areas.

In a University press release, Dr Abreu stated: “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.”