A big lottery win might not just change your finances – it could also affect your politics.


Welcome back Tweedsters, people who win large
amounts of money on lotteries tend to switch
their political allegiances towards the right
of the political spectrum and become less
egalitarian, joint UK-Australian research
has found.
The study, Does money make people right-wing
and inegalitarian: a longitudinal study of
lottery wins, was conducted by the University
of Melbourne, the London School of Economics
and the University of Warwick.
The researchers based their conclusions on
a long-term study of thousands of UK citizens
who won up to £200,000 pounds in the lottery.
The data is included in the British Household
Panel Survey which, among many other things,
keeps an annual record of the way in which
people’s political attitudes have changed.
Winning more than £500 shifted people’s
views approximately 0.13 points on the scale
to the right. That’s equivalent to about
a 2% shift towards the Conservative end of
the spectrum.
It might not sound like a huge shift, but
it was significant compared with other factors
that influence an individual’s politics.
Completing secondary education to age 18 nudged
people along the political spectrum by nearly
4% to the right, compared with people who
have no formal education, according to the
survey data. And the greater the lottery win,
the greater the shift to the right.
Existing Conservative voters who won lottery
money said their support for the party had
strengthened after the lucky break, while
winners from all political persuasions were
more likely to say that ordinary people already
had a fair share of wealth, compared with
before their win.
Nearly 18% of winners immediately switched
their support to the Conservatives after their
wins over the course of the study
This effect was far more pronounced in men
than in women. The reason for this is not
clear, except that men tended to win more
than women and also played the lottery more
than women.
The researchers note the findings are consistent
with a broader conclusion that “An increase
in a person’s overall household income … is
associated with a rise in their belief in
the justice of the current wealth distribution
in society.”
“Data suggests that, very broadly, richer
people tend to be more right-wing and poorer
people tend to support the Labour party,”
researchers said. “Most of us hardly change
our views – although ageing is associated
with becoming more conservative.
“But a lottery win is a stand-out factor
in what makes people change their views. It
has two effects: it makes people more likely
to change their allegiance from Labour to
Conservative and their support tends to change
within their party allegiance.”
The researchers said that the larger the win,
the more people were tempted to vote for a
conservative party. “Humans are creatures
of flexible ethics,” they said. “So while
they’re not sure exactly what goes on inside
people’s brains it seems having money causes
people to favour conservative, right-wing
ideas. Their study provides empirical evidence
that voting choices are made out of self-interest.”
The researchers said the project had made
them doubt the view that morality was an objective
choice. “In the voting booth, monetary self-interest
casts a long shadow, despite people’s protestations
that there are intellectual reasons for voting
for low tax rates.”
Robert Ford, who has studied voting behaviour
as lecturer in politics at the University
of Manchester said
“It gets around all sorts of problems with
the idea that people vote in a certain way
because of the amount of money they have – which
can be dependent on a lot of other factors
such as who their parents are, what their
job is – which might push their vote in
a certain direction.
“But people randomly getting an amount of
money allows the researchers to isolate that
factor and interrogate the data more simply.”
He added that while it suggested that self-interest
plays a part in people’s voting behaviour
“it would be going a bit far to say that
people always vote in self-interest, because
clearly they don’t.”
“And it’s an exceptional circumstance
because most people don’t get their money
via a lottery win. In some ways it reminds
me of the experience of the Beatles or Adele,
who were very working class but once they
came quite quickly into large amounts of money
started to feel differently about all sorts
of things.”
An implication of the study is that people’s
political beliefs are more fickle than some
would like to think.
“Most people who do research on political
preferences believe that they are almost inborn.
You grow up and gain a strong political belief
that won’t be shifted,” a researcher said.
“But even something like a lottery win can
shift our core beliefs.”
There’s a well-established link between
having more money and being more right wing,
but this is tricky to disentangle from the
values people grow up with and the social
circles they move in. Using the data on lottery
winners suggests that having a lump sum of
cash land in your bank account – whatever
your background and prior beliefs – really
does cause a significant shift in views.

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