Boris Johnson once claimed that voting Tory increases your chances of owning a BMW and would lead to breast enlargement for the missus. Polls last year suggested the Conservative Party was still viewed as the domain of the rich. Now a survey of lottery winners has suggested Boris and the pollsters could be right – the more you win the more Tory you’ll become.
A joint UK-Australia study of the voting preferences of lottery winners has found that while a windfall of lotto cash could lead to a dream home, a luxury yacht, a Mediterranean villa and a side-order of catwalk models, a switch in political allegiance to right-wing parties was also likely.
The research, conducted jointly by the universities of Warwick and Melbourne, included analysis of 4,000 British citizens who won up to £200,000 on the national lottery.
Even among those who missed out on big number prizes, winning little was shown to be enough to produce a lurch to the right.
The Warwick-Melbourne research, which included data from household panel surveys taken between 1996 to 2009, found a trend of winners switching their support from Labour to the Tories.
So although TV lottery shows are still far from being classified as a party political broadcast, Ed Miliband and Labour will be relieved a national prize draw isn’t yet a daily event.
The survey found that a swing to the right was more pronounced for those who won substantial life-changing amounts. But 45 percent who won more than £500 said they subsequently supported right-wing parties.
For David Cameron the lottery research will be received with a smile. It showed that existing Conservative voters who won some cash, simply saw the windfall as strengthening their Tory blue credentials.
The ideological switch from the left to right, following the arrival of the big cheque, was also found to be rapid. The survey said that nearly 18 percent of all winners immediately switched their support to the Tories.
Last year a ComRes survey for the Independent found that the Conservative Party was still seen as representing the interests of the rich. The ComRes findings were published shortly after the Tory planning minister, Nick Boles, warned that the “single biggest problem” facing his party was the traditional view that it still represented the wealthy.
While the London mayor’s comments on BMWs and breast enlargement may be dismissed as meaningless Boris banter, the former Tory MP and chick-lit author, Louise Mensch, said it was “pathetic caricaturing” to believe in the standard stereotype that “every Tory was in it for themselves".
Professor Nattavudh Powdthavee from Melbourne, one of the report’s co-authors, said it was not yet clear if the change in political ideology was being driven by deeply held ethical views, or simply by self-interest. He said: “The amount won in the lottery is completely randomised, but we saw that the more you won, the more right-leaning you become.”
According to the professor, the author of a book called The Happiness Equation, this pointed to winners favouring right-wing ideas such as lower taxation and less redistributive policy ideas.
Not all winners of big lottery prizes however fit the survey’s right-leaning predictions.
In 2011, Christine and Colin Weir, a former STV cameraman and a former psychiatric nurse, scooped a record £161m jackpot on the EuroMillions lottery. The Scottish couple immediately handed a cheque for £1m to a political party – the SNP.