Some analysis of the 2017 General Election in the UK has been published in the Financial Times, which seems to indicate that people without a university degree, who were working class, and had poor health. Were more likely to vote for the Conservative party (who are politically right wing). Indeed throughout this election campaign polling seems to indicate that working class voter tend to vote conservative.

This phenomenon however is not limited to the UK, in 2016 non-college educated and blue-collar workers flocked to support Donald Trump and the Republican Party. Although the point surrounding Trump could partially be talked of as a backlash against globalisation etc etc and that, it's undeniable at least that at least some portion of the working class electorate are inherently on the political right

In France

55 per cent of manual workers say they will vote for her[Marine Le Pen]

Who was perhaps one of the farthest right candidates to make it to the 2nd round of the French Presidential s.

Now I'm looking at this from a British perspective, but "left-wing" parties in the UK such as the Labour Party, started off as the "workers" parties and were initially at least almost exclusively voted for by the "working-class". Working class interests were at least theoretically served best by left wing parties e.g. setting/raising the minimum wage, Universal Free healthcare, the welfare state, social security etc. Indeed left wing policy on paper at least seems to serve the working class better, for example several of the Labour party flagship proposals such as abolition tuition fees and cutting zero hours contracts and increasing the minimum wage were in the direct interests of working class voters who wanted their children to go to university with reduced debt, who were on the breadline and needed job security, so why are the working class moving right? Why are they voting against their own (theoretical) economic interests?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Jun 14, 2017 at 14:59
  • 1
    Voting is still free and secret. The question should formulate more cautiously, we don't know if this is really what happened and there is no way to be sure. Also, I think that the large percentage of people not voting at all has been ignored. Most workers may not vote at all. Aug 30, 2019 at 16:19
  • 1
    At least with regard to healthcare (Obamacare) workers in the US voting Republican shoot themselves in the foot, but they did so in the full knowledge, the GOP didn't hide its intentions there. I guess this means that some workers really prefer no affordable healthcare to "socialized" medicine. Aug 30, 2019 at 16:27
  • 2
    I'm surprised "temporarily embarrassed millionaires" hasn't come up yet
    – benxyzzy
    Sep 3, 2019 at 18:05
  • I wonder (not really) why this question is so controversial. Most people don't have access to the data, but this question and almost every answer has down-votes, -43 in total so far, with the top rated answer having -9. Oct 17, 2020 at 17:52

16 Answers 16


How could so many rich men like George Clooney and Bill Gates vote for Hillary Clinton? After all, she openly said that she thought it was sexist to hire a man (Donald Trump) over a woman (her). And we all know that she wanted higher taxes on better off people compared to Donald Trump.

No one seems to ask that question.

Perhaps they simply didn't understand her positions. They thought she was better for them, but they were wrong. Quite possible.

A simpler explanation though is that we are classifying them incorrectly. They are not primarily rich men. They are liberal people. Perhaps they care more about how the money is spent than how much they are going to provide.

Similarly, people classified as working class, no college education, and/or bad health by polls may classify themselves differently. They could be unemployed due to globalization dislocations, religious conservatives, anti-abortion proponents, rich (e.g. Bill Gates is a college dropout, so he shows up in the no college degree statistics), former coal miners, believers in a stronger military, pragmatic foreign policy, or just supporters of law enforcement.

It's also possible that they have a better understanding of how economic policies are going to affect them than you do. Some may actually remember the world under the more liberal economic policies of the 1970s and don't want to go back. Or they may simply have more reason to compare their specific circumstances to the policies and better understand the individual impacts.

Perhaps they have different views of the world. It's interesting that the places with the most inequality in the United States are overwhelmingly run by Democrats: the District of Columbia; New York; Connecticut. The three with the least inequality are run by Republicans: Utah; Alaska; Wyoming. Is it surprising that Democrat dominated states' voters think that inequality is really important? And Republicans don't?

There's a similar statistic with regards to net payments. Democratic states pay more in taxes than they receive in outlays. Republican states receive more in outlays than they pay in taxes. From one perspective, Republican states would be better off with increased outlays, because they get more back than they pay. And Democrats would be worse off. But from another perspective, Democrats are accurately describing their problem, too few outlays. And Republicans are accurately describing theirs, too many outlays.

In 2006 and 2008, young people voted overwhelmingly for Democrats. But Democrats at that time were accusing Republicans of wanting to cut Social Security benefits. Young people aren't going to receive Social Security benefits for forty years or more. Shouldn't they have been voting Republican in those elections?

Perhaps people aren't driven by narrow, short term self-interest as much as politicians think.

  • 3
    Interesting way of looking at it.
    – acpilot
    Jun 11, 2017 at 3:21
  • 12
    And don't forget about the Ecological Fallacy. Even if, for example, the “red states” have more people on food stamps, are the actual recipients voting Republican? Or does the presence of a large welfare-dependent class provoke “anti-moocher” sentiment in the other residents of those states?
    – dan04
    Jun 13, 2017 at 0:52
  • 6
    Citation needed for Clinton's statement.
    – user
    Aug 30, 2019 at 10:10
  • 24
    No one asks such a question because they know the answer. Their side votes the way they do for selfless altruistic reasons, not self-interest. Whereas the other side votes against their own interest because they are idiots.As soon as someone asks such a question (e.g. the OP) they identify which side they are one. Aug 30, 2019 at 13:41
  • 6
    @hkBst principles only matter if they go against one's personal gain. I'd say both rich and poor people are fully capable of having or lacking them. Sep 2, 2019 at 4:00

As someone previously mentioned, Trump promised more jobs for blue collar workers. He said it could be done by changing the trade deals, reducing immigration and leaving the climate agreement. Maybe not everyone believed that, but Hillary didn't even give them hope.

Another reason is the 'white privilege' rhetoric invented by the left. It makes sense at those wealthy universities, where the rich white people sent their kids. However there are a lot of hard working white Americans, that haven't had any vacations in years. After working hard the whole day they try to relax in front of TV and all they hear is 'you are the bad guy'.

The last reason is the culture war declared by the left. The culture still matters for many. They may not like Trump, but since he declared himself for their cause, they have no other choice, but to support him.

  • 4
    However hard working and downtrodden they are, an equally hard working and downtrodden non-white person is worse off. The argument is not (nor presented as) either/or, but rather "all things being equal". So the emphasis is very heavily on the "they hear" part of your description. The argument they hear (that they're the bad guys because -all things being equal- whites have it better than non-whites) is not the one presented to them. They are seeing enemies in their minds because of this focus on zero-sum.
    – benxyzzy
    Sep 3, 2019 at 18:15
  • 16
    Citation needed for the claim that the "non-white person is worse off".
    – Dunk
    Sep 12, 2019 at 17:51
  • @benxyzzy "The argument they hear... is not the one presented to them." Curious. Why, then, should common folk be held responsible for the "racism" that others "hear" in their so-called "implicit bias", when that is not what they consciously present? "The argument is not (nor presented as) either/or, but rather "all things being equal"." Bluntly, I strongly disagree with your assessment of the reality. More generally, if tens of million Americans misunderstand (as seems to be your argument) a few hundred Dem politicians, maybe it's not the citizens to blame for the failure to communicate? Feb 1, 2023 at 11:23

I can't answer for the US, but in the UK the rational arguments that you propose for supporting the left don't necessarily apply to individual blue-collar workers. For example:

  • Aspiring to a "free" university education is irrelevant, if you live in an area with "sink" secondary schools which don't even offer the examination courses you need to qualify for university entrance. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-36674622 for example of an entire Borough with only a 2% university admission rate, where the last state-funded school offering these qualifications has stopped doing so.

  • Many blue collar workers are, or aspire to be, in the "cash" or "black" economy, so issues like the minimum wage and social security are irrelevant (for example claiming social security entails the risk of being caught for other "dubious" practices).

  • Since blue collar jobs are usually unskilled, wages are easily undercut. The minimum wage legislation doesn't have much practical significance when employers can freely introduce "zero hours" working contracts. Hence the blue-collar opposition to "foreign workers" from the EU. The Labour party's position on this has been at best ambivalent, and often perceived as supporting "remain" rather than "leave" (and providing a minimum wage and "free" social security for migrants) whatever the leadership may actually say.

The days when the majority of the working class were "organized" by the Trade Union movement (which bankrolled the Labour party) and voted they way the union leaders told them to vote have long gone. The Labour governments following Thatcher's conservative government have never reversed Thatcher's restrictions on trade union power in the 1980s. (Ironically, the single issue that consumed the most parliamentary time in the Labour governments was the abolition of fox hunting - a topic of no interest to most of the working classes, except for the "tree huggers".) Total union membership in the UK has now shrunk to its level in the 1940s, and is still declining by a few percent per year. Adjusting for the growth in population, the current level would be even lower than in the 1940s.

The current political reality is that neither the left or right wing "mainstream" parties can command a majority without appealing to the center vote, and the only (temporarily) credible "extremist" parties have been on the right - for example UKIP and the British National Party, both of which seem to have now imploded after their "15 minutes of fame".

  • 3
    If you could clarify a couple of things about your first and third bullet point: 1) Merseyside is one of the most reliably Labour places in the country so does the example given of inability to go to university apply? and 2) Cant this be countered by the fact the Labour party wantes to abolish zero hour contracts? Jun 11, 2017 at 7:13
  • 1
    This reads like you think workers have given up in the UK. Nothing you mention is something the right is good at. Aug 30, 2019 at 16:21
  • 1
    @Trilarion the answer is primarily about things the working class supposedly thinks aren't important. So "what the right is good at" is irrelevant - this isn't explaining why they vote for the right, so much as why they don't vote for the left. A priori, given two parties with no specific reason to vote for either, we would expect a 50/50 split. Feb 1, 2023 at 11:32

Why are they voting against their own (theoretical) economic interests?

Nobody votes logically. The expectation that we are rational agents who behave in such a way is demonstrably false.

In his 2011 book, 'Thinking, Fast and Slow', Daniel Kahneman explains behavioural economics, and why people make irrational decisions. Part of his assessment makes the distinction between 'econs' and 'humans'.

Econs are the rational ideal of how humans ought to be, as presumed by classical economics and other older beliefs about human agency. However, nobody in the real world is an econ. The closest to them are psychopaths and economists. The vast majority of humans behave in irrational ways, guided by many intuitive cognitive biases.

There are related phenomena worth considering: most importantly Loss Aversion and incomplete information. The latter is obvious; those with less money tend to have less education, and thus know less about the outside world and history, and consequently are less able to judge that some egalitarian policies would benefit them, and are thus more vulnerable to political Red Herrings. It's hard to keep abreast of political history if you're working round the clock to put food on the table or keep the heating on.

Loss Aversion is simple: people avoid loss more than they seek gain, because losses are more painful than gains are pleasurable. But it's also that the likelihood of risk taking is changed by how the question is framed.

While this explains that most wealthy people will vote for stability to avoid risking loss, it also implies that the working class have a revolutionary tendency, because they have nothing to lose in voting for radical change. They also tend to have little to gain from the stability of the status quo.

In comparison, comfortably middle class liberals have much to gain from something they can be reasonably expected to achieve, such as home ownership or university education. But if you can't afford either, why would you vote for it? Especially if the cost to you is real but the benefit is at best indirect (and mostly non-existent).

It shouldn't be a surprise then that it's easy to frame immigration and taxes as a painful loss to someone who hasn't much to lose. Potentially positive changes, such as free university or a new healthcare system, are distant abstracts, versus immediate concrete negatives such as higher taxes.

Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett's 2009 book The Spirit Level explored the relationship between social dysfunction and economic inequality, and part of this inquiry considered the impact of status anxiety. The more impoverished the individual, the more aware they are of their status, and also the more anxious they feel about it.

This means that loss aversion combined with status anxiety is an explosive combination, especially when loaded by any status dimensions of prejudice. The prospect of equalisation with groups deemed lesser ("they've just come to this country, I have been here my whole life and paid taxes", etc), for the lower ranked members of a dominant group, invokes nothing but loss aversion and status anxiety.

A final point to add is an observation made by Stanley Hoffmann, who was a professor of political science at Harvard University. Hoffmann spent his teenage years hiding from the Gestapo in a French village, and later classified collaborators into different groups. He noted that those who volunteered with the Germans were mostly from opposite ends of French society: the elite ("the cream of the top of the civil service, of the armed forces, of the business community"), and the underclass ("social misfits and political deviants" who'd never have amounted to anything).

Hoffmann's point was essentially that this group is threatened by the prospect of an egalitarian or entrepreneurial system, as they cannot gain status when they are forced to compete. Consequently, underclass ally with upperclass to form a reactionary vanguard, and gain status through loyalty.

This however can also be said of Communism. It's a point Anne Applebaum has made (Twilight of Democracy) in her analysis of the history of Communism, that the emergence of a modern far-right falls into the same pattern: loyalty to dogmas is easy and can be used by one group to benefit themselves at the expense of others politically. The difference is just that western societies are no longer agrarian, like the Russian Empire before Communism. Consequently, revolutionary politics tends right, not left, because more people own something and thus loss aversion plays into political fears and choices. But the process and mentality is similar.

  • This answer deserves more votes!
    – Jan
    Sep 10, 2019 at 11:56
  • This answer is true and should be stressed...but would be much better if it further went into how this principle specifically applied to white uneducated voters, where did non-rational human nature drive them towards conservative voting that is different then what a rational ideal would push towards? (ie issues like minority vs white rhetoric, belief that democrats are too intellectually elite, tendency for lower educated individuals to prefer stable, ie conservative, moral views towards more complex or changing arguments of democrats etc etc)
    – dsollen
    Oct 5, 2020 at 15:11
  • Responding to "why don't they like my team?" with insinuations like "they are not behaving rationally" or "they feel threatened by having to play fair" or "they can't compete" is a) a bad look and b) self-fulfilling. This answer exactly demonstrates the off-putting "leftist" (not real leftism, but what passes for it in popular terms in the modern West) attitudes described by the answer from user14816, and to some extent in Brythan's answer. Feb 1, 2023 at 11:37
  • @KarlKnechtel If you're going to comment, read the answer properly. I'm very clear about everyone being irrational: "nobody in the real world is an econ", and that loss aversion times status anxiety is the biggest thing here: "it's easy to frame immigration and taxes as a painful loss to someone who hasn't much to lose". Americanised "leftists" are not my team either. I've implied that wealthy liberals are self-serving politically: "wealthy people will vote for stability to avoid risking loss".
    – user8398
    Feb 1, 2023 at 15:22
  • @KarlKnechtel I also don't understand why you think saying "they feel threatened by having to play fair" is somehow inaccurate, when far-right populism lately is explicitly protectionist, not free-market. That is the reality of how right-wing populism is expressing itself, and has been for the last few decades. It's not surprising, or new, it's an established fact. If you want to argue it's misrepresentative, then go and argue with those who are advocating it.
    – user8398
    Feb 1, 2023 at 15:59

Setting already mentioned and absolutely right point "People do NOT necessary vote according to their short term interests and we're not perplexed when a rich person express willingness to pay slightly higher taxes", I see one point that was missing. Why exactly are we assuming that working class interests are actually specially well represented nowadays by the left? Yes, I fully agree high taxes for rich and safety net for the poor is something appreciated by the working class. Just the problem is that many positions of contemporary left look as the interests of the working class were to be sacrificed for some greater good:

1) Migration issue:

  • If the supply of low skill labour goes up, then its price goes down. Just in this specific case policy of the left is directly leading to wage stagnation.

  • New arrivals, (unless we talk about high skill labour) even after a while would be overproportionally likely to be genuinely in need. Thus for practical purposes they would drain safety net system, so those being contemporary working class would receive less.

  • Crime surge - people from ME and Africa tend to show statically speaking higher crime rates. So people living in poorer districts (yes, the working class) would be hit. Let's say that UK track record with fighting grooming gangs is not awe inspiring.

2) War on global warming:

  • In other words price increase of petrol, electricity and heating, which is especially painful for the poorer part of the society. Already exploded in France in form Yellow Vest Movement. Add to it left wing activists seems to remain happy to use jets, including private jet travel so an observer may reach a conclusion that great change of lifestyle to combat climate change is something that for practical purposes applies the most to the working class.

3) From a perspective of a white working class male everyone else is either a protected class or rich and powerful enough to have a priority over them which puts them neatly at the bottom.

For extra fun left establishment is mostly affluent enough to be shielded from those genuine interests, so when confronted with them interprets all those issues as some form of bigotry and narrow mindedness.

  • 1
    The statistically observed differences in crime rates tend to disappear if one considers various other factors that are often glossed over. In short and very simplified, young, poor males are statistically more criminal than those missing at least one of those characteristics and the people migrating from the Middle East and North Africa tend to be younger, poorer and have a higher proportion of males than other populations. I have seen one statistic for Germany where the difference between ethnic Germans and others completely disappears if these factors are taken into account.
    – Jan
    Sep 10, 2019 at 11:54
  • 6
    @Jan "Controlling" for poverty, is effectively saying that an ethnic group is seriously over represented among NEETS, but their NEETS are not worse than local NEETS. ;) Sort of true. Just implicitly clings on assumption, that poverty is directly a causal factor, and not for example that failure to comply with local norms decreases carrier prospects and increases chances to get in to conflict with law.
    – Shadow1024
    Sep 10, 2019 at 13:06
  • "The statistically observed differences in crime rates tend to disappear if one considers [poverty, since I don't see any other factors mentioned]" - citation needed. Feb 1, 2023 at 11:45
  • The actual reasons behind crime rates don't matter for the purpose of this question. What matters is that belief in the "crime surge" point affects the way people vote: they believe that they are protecting their own interests and that they are being unfairly labeled as bigots for it.
    – user31389
    Dec 26, 2023 at 1:04

There's a lot of research, analysis, punditry, and opinion on this topic. So I don't know that there is any definitive answer to this. But here's some bullet points to hopefully add to the answers.

This Forbes article posits some reasons as to we don't always vote in our best interests (paraphrased):

  • Overwhelmed by the choices and complexities, we tend to focus on superficial qualities

  • We may be looking for too-simple explanations

  • We may be distracted by the wrong issues

  • We don't see the whole system and all the connections, causes and effects

  • We don't know ourselves

Specific to the last election in the US, this WaPo article suggests

...Democratic policies probably would help the white working class. But the white working class doesn’t seem to buy that they’re the ones who’d really benefit.

This NPR story points out:

Researchers have long been confused by what seems like a paradox: many people in America vote against their economic self-interests

and provides this answer

In her new book, Strangers in Their Own Land, sociologist Arlie Hochschild tackles this paradox. She says that while people might vote against their economic needs, they're actually voting to serve their emotional needs.

I could quote more articles. While there seems to be agreement that a lot of working class people certainly do not vote in their economic best interest, there isn't necessarily specific agreement as to why beyond the broad bullet points mentioned above.

  • 4
    Your first quote from the washington post answers the OP's question and at the same time points out the fallacy of their second question. Basically, the working class does not see the democrats as supporting them. Obama for 8 years and for the first time in the overwhelming majority's lives they were worse off or no better than when a president came into office. The last time that happened was Jimmy Carter. OTOH, Trump had common sense REAL solutions and the working class did vote in their self-interest. It is the pundits claiming otherwise who are wrong in who is better for the working class.
    – Dunk
    Sep 12, 2019 at 17:59
  • 1
    "While there seems to be agreement that a lot of working class people certainly do not vote in their economic best interest" - agreement among people who endorse Dem policies, yes. There are any number of right-wing and libertarian think-tanks who, as far as I can tell, genuinely believe hoi polloi are right about this and that the ivory tower crowd are wrong. As Dunk points out, there are also "are you better or worse off now than you were then?" sorts of surveys done on this topic, too. Voting decisions are likely motivated more by the perception of past results, than by promises. Feb 1, 2023 at 11:40

In the US, the answer is fairly simple. Hillary Clinton campaigned on or openly supported lenient trade deals that exported jobs (her opposition to TPP was shown to be false). She also campaigned on more open immigration, inviting more people in to compete for the jobs remaining.

Trump campaigned on tighter trade deals, lower immigration, and policies to generate more jobs in the US.

If you're a working class person, who has seen jobs exported to other nations and is worried about their ability to support their family, which candidate do you vote for?

Since the conservatives in the UK are opposed to more immigration to bring more people into the UK to compete for the jobs available, that may be the reason that working class people are leaning towards the conservative candidates.

  • 11
    But the answer isn't that simple. Plenty of analysis has been shown that there were multitudes of reasons as to why this demographic voted Trump. The logic is also weak with this argument given how anti-union the Trump side is (not to mention that Trump literally does not pay his workers)--which one could easily argue is a perfect reason for the working class to not vote for him.
    – user1530
    Jun 11, 2017 at 17:56
  • 8
    I disagree. That is what I heard from avid Trump supporters - he ran on an America first, jobs for Americans first platform, and they liked that, because they have seen many of their jobs shipped overseas courtesy of lenient trade deals, and they're worried about their future. Also reflected in the normally dem working class states that put trump over the top. That sentiment still exists, by the way, something the current democratic party might do well to remember. If anything, I'm very disappointed in the dem party, for its failure to reflect on its basic mistakes that made the 2016 defeat.
    – tj1000
    Jun 12, 2017 at 15:19
  • @user1530 there is a difference between what people hear and what is true. I won't try to speak to rather trump is better for working class people, you think he isn't and tj1000 disagrees; it's not a fight I want to get into. However, regardless of rather trump ultimately is or isn't better for working class his message was about working class people and improving their lives and that's what people heard. Voters, of both parties, aren't always as well informed as we would like and often make rather superficial decisions, they hear trump say he is pro working class so they vote for him.
    – dsollen
    Oct 5, 2020 at 15:06
  • 1
    Being "anti-union" doesn't entail opposition to workers' rights or a lack of concern about competition in the labour market. It only entails a belief that unions are not a proper solution for those problems. Feb 1, 2023 at 11:47
  • @dsollen "Voters, of both parties, aren't always as well informed" - please carefully consider what you mean by informed. No voter has a crystal ball; we cannot know hypothetically what will happen if/when a candidate becomes POTUS. We don't know which promises will be kept and which broken, and we certainly don't know the effect the kept promises will have. The information we do have is what they campaign on, and the image they create. (1/2) Feb 1, 2023 at 11:50

Economist Thomas Piketty aims to address this in his book, Capital and Ideology. One of the main themes is that the base of support for left-leaning parties has shifted from those with less formal education to those with more. It also argues that while voting behavior has become less class-based overall, higher-income voters are shifting towards the right-wing and there is a growing polarization of nativists versus globalists. Underlying all of this is the general structural economic changes associated with globalization and automation.

Here is a blog article by political scientist Jan Rovny who comments:

The traditional industrial working class has almost disappeared from developed societies. It has been made redundant through the exodus of industrial production to less-developed countries, it has been displaced by machines, robots and computers, and to its socio-political position came large swathes of lower grade service workers – the restaurant staff, the drivers, the cleaners. They are today the ‘working class’ of developed societies.

But these people, dispersed in their daily tasks carried out in isolation from one another, do not share the collective identity and the organisation potential historically present on the factory floor. Atomised, these workers of today have no historical affinity with, nor current ability to mobilise in any significant political organisation or party. The structurally driven disappearance of the industrial working class led left parties to ensure their survival by turning towards the progressive socio-cultural professionals. Silja Häusermann has demonstrated how over the course of the last few decades, social democratic and labour parties have become the parties of the educated, (public sector) white collar middle-classes.


The old industrial working class was never inherently culturally progressive, but its left-wing parties, steeped in the internationalism of Marxist ideology and led by educated ‘Brahmin’ elites, such as Jean Jaurès or Léon Blum, translated working class authoritarian tendencies into a fight for universalistic social progress. They replaced nationalistic tendencies of the working classes with socialist internationalism. The great structural transformation, reflected in the educational flip, resulted in the severing of the ties between the working classes and the parties of the left, leaving these populations in political drift, free to descend towards cultural particularism.

The severing of this connection is as much due to the strategies of the parties (their turn towards the educated socio-cultural professionals), as to the fundamental social reconstitution of the ‘working class’. Today, left-wing cultural conservatives, overwhelmingly made up of the new service underclasses, and other downgraded or under-skilled middle classes are indeed politically lonely. Both because almost no one reaches out to them, and because they have no socio-historical affinities with any political family and no mobilisation capacity of their own.


In the UK the Conservative party presents an aspirational ideal. The basic idea is that you work hard and should jealously guard the wealth you have, to accumulate more. Furthermore they promoted the idea that many working class people are actually middle class, and thus natural Conservative voters.

There is also the blame game. Blame immigrants, blame criminals, blame people supposedly abusing the benefits system. All easy targets with no voice of their own. The Labour Party, the main left leaning force in UK politics, has generally shied away from that kind of populism, but the Tories seem happy to abuse it.

In the US there is a somewhat similar concept called the American Dream. The idea that anyone can make it if they work hard, so don't vote for anything that might slightly reduce you hard-earned well deserved wealth that is surely coming to you in the future.

  • 7
    Have you considered possibility that people used in "the blame game" technically speaking actually have some interests that are contrary to interest of the working class?
    – Shadow1024
    Aug 30, 2019 at 11:17
  • @Shadow1024 yes. For example, immigration has been repeatedly shown to be not only a net positive for everyone including the working class, but also good for the working class specifically. At most any impact on them is extremely small, and certainly not the cause of all the things that they are blamed for.
    – user
    Aug 30, 2019 at 12:55
  • 1
    @Shadow1024 crime has been falling for decades. Benefit abuse does happen but is vastly exaggerated, and not helped by irresponsible reporting and TV shows like "Benefits Street". In reality most benefit claimants are in work, i.e. they are the working class.
    – user
    Aug 30, 2019 at 12:57
  • 3
    @user I'd note that those "extremely small" effects many economic studies find, like "only" a 3 percent drop in wages, is extremely problematic for someone earning barely enough to get by. Instead of a cost of living increase over the years they have to make increasing cutbacks. Plus of course those numbers are averages, some fields see precipitous drops in wages as the labor supply goes up. But after a career in one job, a working class person can't nimbly move to the new growth area like skilled professionals can. At the very least it is a major source of stress and problems. Aug 30, 2019 at 13:29
  • 2
    @user Are you suggesting that even when a study finds lower wages from immigration, it also finds lower unemployment (in both cases for the working class)? No I don't believe this is always (or even often) the claim. Aug 31, 2019 at 20:18

Regressive taxes are harder to collect. The efficiency argument is about making government less efficient, so it's all anti-government and anti-welfare.

And since the working class doesn't receive welfare it opposes it.

So working class has no reason to support progressive policies.

  • 1
    "since the working class doesn't receive welfare" [citation needed]
    – JS Lavertu
    Oct 5, 2020 at 19:06

It's very simple. Because race, culture wars and Euroscepticism increasingly define how people vote in the UK, rather than economics. The White working-class likes Brexit and is sceptical about some elements of post-modern British social reforms. They feel a loss of national and cultural identity stemming from mass non-White immigration to major British cities.

We are just following the path of most other Western democracies in this regard. USA, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Netherlands, etc.

It's always been this way. There has always been a strand of working-class opinion that has voted Tory for social reasons. At times this has included working-class "orange" Toryism (once major in places like Liverpool and Glasgow, and believe it or not still a minor-but-nonetheless noticeable thing within the Scottish Tory Party).

So yeah, people put Britain's burgeoning Kulturkampf (and Brexit) ahead of economic interest.

It fuels the argument that once societies become multiracial, they inevitably coalesce around tribal parties which represent ethnic identity, and that this is to a large extent what's happening in the UK (and the US, and South Africa).



Why do working class people vote for the political right?


I would argue they don't. I would argue that neither President Trump nor Prime Minister Boris Johnson are conservative candidates. They are both at their core populist candidates who have a cult of personal followers rather than traditional conservative voters.

I would argue that in both cases blue collar workers are voting for "change", disillusioned with the more traditional choices. In that way in both cases the motivation of traditional liberal supporters is consistent with a liberal motivation rather than to preserve the status quo, return to a better time, the traditional conservative motivation to vote.

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From Tim JMS After his election, the opposite to "supporting planned parenthood, calling for healthcare reform and supporting gay rights. He was also calling for a trillion dollar infrastructure package" has happened. – o

Yes Tim Trump shifted to the right significantly after his election. That's why I focused on Trade. He where he did at least give lip service renegotiating a few deals and blocking TPP.

Ultimately though I don't think his effectiveness nor his changing positions after the 2020 election matter. He tapped into a huge number of disaffected voters, as Clinton used to say, "felt their pain"; and now I think he owns that group. They find no home with traditional Democrats, and perhaps surprisingly find no hom with traditional Republicans. Which means like many popularists Trumps "machine" will likely dissipate after Trump leaves office.

  • I see you’re trying to reframe the question which in itself is fine. I agree that much of Johnson’s and Trump’s policies are populist at core. However, I would also argue that they are predominantly right-wing populist (left-wing populist exists too but I do not see either politician advancing left-wing populism). So it seems to me like your answer is dodging the question without fully answering it.
    – Jan
    Oct 19, 2020 at 3:01
  • 1
    @Jan I disagree. Trump went into the south Carolina debate in 2016 stating the gulf war was a mistake, supporting planned parenthood, calling for healthcare reform and supporting gay rights. He was also calling for a trillion dollar infrastructure package. All well to the left of most of the Democrats running other than Bernie. Trump won Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Penn winning blue collar union members traditionally reliable democratic votes. He only moved to the right somewhat after the election to try to get re-elected.
    – user20338
    Oct 19, 2020 at 3:19

Perhaps the problem is the conflation of workers, the poor, and leftist politics.

Historically, the left represented workers, who tended to be underpaid and subject to harsh conditions.

Today, thanks in a large part to those leftists, workers have it much better.

Leftists don't necessarily support workers, they support groups that they believe are incapable of defending themselves. So now the leftists aren't fighting for workers; the social justice warriors have found other more deserving groups to represent. The pathetic people that the left fights for used to be the working class, but not anymore.

Most people that work for wages or salaries are doing well, and they now can easily move to another job if it suits them. Today's workers see their hard gained and hard earned money being taxed away to pay for socialist policies.

The main problem with the original question is that it incorrectly assumes that the working class (i.e. those that work for a living) are still the same people as are living in poverty and getting government assistance.


Because of home sales.

Here you can see that a fifth of home sales are over the top income bracket (518,401 as of now). Many working class people own homes that have inflated to that level.

Furthermore, Democrats are much more likely to be renters and not homeowners.

Because it's so easy to join the 1% by simply being a fairly above average home owner, it is in the working class interest to care about the highest tax rates. It's not simply the overall wealth, but the type of wealth that Republicans own. Republicans are poorer, but more rural, and therefore can more easily obtain a house.


One way of thinking about the political Left/Right distinction is to see the Left as the home of political idealism and the Right as the home of political pragmatism (within the philosophical context of classical Liberalism). People who are enchanted by new ideas, who want to create a better world, who pull out ideals like fairness, justice, equality, etc., are drawn towards the left of the spectrum where such ideas have currency. People who prefer tried-and-true practices, who want to preserve what works, who pull out ideas like order, stability, personal accomplishment, etc., are drawn more to the right. It's an emotional reaction as much as an intellectual one.

Working class people usually fall in the latter group. They don't think the world is perfect, but they have a job and a home and a family; their world is good enough. Idealism implies change and the idea of change threatens the stability of what they have. They don't like injustice, but they don't want to risk upending everything in some Quixotic quest for perfection. Working class people will move to the left when the system is so heavily weighted against them that it becomes threatening in its own right (e.g., the rise of Marxist thought and unionization in the early 20th century, in response to the abuses of industrial capitalism), but in normal times the working class naturally falls into a moderate, center-Right attitude.


We are living in the era of corporatocracy where the corporate class has become the ruling class, as wealth and power have become so concentrated that the interests of working class are ignored or at least controlled. In most western world countries, the corporate class owns and hence controls most if not all media/information and the public is fed a steady diet of right wing ideology. Chomsky was right when he said that consent is manufactured.

In the US, Fox News, a far right propaganda mill, is the number one watched news channel of all. The ruling class has ensured that the working class did not and will not become class conscious.

It starts in public schools where the virtues of capitalism, not socialism, are disseminated. In fact, if socialism is even mentioned at all in schools, it is cast as a scourge on society.

As a result, the working class in the US have no political party, no representation. Both the Republicans and the Democrats parties are funded by the ruling corporate class, offering no alternative to neo-liberalism that pervades the western world.

  • 5
    I’m not sure how far to the right Fox News actually is (I’m not American nor would I watch it if I were) but the argument has been made repeatedly that Fox News has the highest market share because it is the only major network whose editorial stance is to the right of the political centre, meaning that the networks in varying degrees of left cannibalise each other while Fox has a right-wing monopoly.
    – Jan
    Oct 5, 2020 at 3:49

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