The economic plight and consequent social and political attitudes of ‘left behind’ communities have become subjects of intense focus across a world impacted by inequality, social unrest, and political populism. We examine whether particular types of local long-term social and economic history affect how residents in different places view the world; here in former mining communities of the UK which remain economically peripheral, and are home to community narratives that emphasise the shared economic, political and cultural heritages that are often fundamental those places’ very existence. We use data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study to contrast political views and social attitudes in communities that were, in 1981, economically dependent on coal mining, with other communities that are similarly economically peripheral in contexts and challenges, but without a shared history of economic decline. We find that residents of former coalmining communities are highly politically disengaged, with low levels of trust and political efficacy, and low involvement in the political process. Moreover, our analysis shows an increase in political engagement over the EU referendum campaign period, which directly addressed some of the grievances felt by these communities. We conclude that community narratives of economic peripherality are strongly inter-linked with trust in government and political engagement.
(jointly with Calvin Jones)