Suddenly Coming Into Money Makes You More Right-Wing

Image: Images of Money/Flickr

Winning the lottery not only makes you richer; it also makes you more right-wing, according to a new paper that examined the political allegiance of people after a windfall.

Their results, the researchers wrote, showed that people voted at least partly out of self-interest. The more money people won, the further they tilted to the right. Intriguingly, men were more affected than women.

In the working paper, economists from the University of Warwick and the University of Melbourne looked at people who had won amounts on the UK lottery of up to £200,000 ($326,000), so no huge wins were taken into account. They wanted to look at what influences people’s voting decisions—are we  motivated primarily by ethical views, or self-interest? Their study, they wrote, “provides longitudinal evidence consistent with the second, and some might argue more jaundiced, view of human beings.”

As their research was based on longitudinal data, they could look at people’s political views before and after their win, so could track how the money changed them. They found that people who weren’t previously right-wing supporters disproportionately became so after a win.

Studies in the past have linked high income with right-wing views, but it’s difficult to know if there’s a cause-and-effect relationship between the two, which is why looking at sudden windfalls is a particularly valuable exercise. 

They got data from the British Household Panel Survey, which is a representative sample of the UK population, and looked at people’s political affiliations in the year they had a lottery win and after.

They found that 18 percent of people who won £500 or more switched to support the Conservative Party (traditionally more right-leaning where the Labour Party is left-leaning) after their lucky haul. That’s in comparison to a control of 13 percent of people who either didn’t play or didn’t win. This led to a simple conclusion: “After a lottery win, people lean rightwards.

Winners were apparently also more likely to agree with the statement that “Ordinary people get a fair share of the nation’s wealth”—which I suppose is easy enough to say if you’ve just randomly come into a load of money.

One problem with the research is that it’s impossible to control for any difference in personality between lottery players and non-players; could those who buy lottery tickets be more self-interested anyway, and therefore more keen to switch to right-wing politics when they’ve got more money to be taxed, and so forth? The researchers admitted they couldn’t completely rule that out, but pointed out that about half the British population plays the lottery regularly, so either way, they still hold a lot of sway when it comes to voting.

They weren’t able to say why men appeared to be more flexible in the political views  than women after getting more money, but as men were found also to win a larger average amount than women, that could account for some of the effect.

Andrew Oswald, one of the researchers behind the study, didn’t hold back in accusing people who voted right wing of being influenced by their own wealth: “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."

Topics: economics, money, lottery, power, politics

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