In what ways, if at all, do past ideologies shape the values of subsequent generations of citizens? Are public attitudes in one period shaped by the discourses and constructions of an earlier generation of political leaders? Using Thatcherism – one variant of the political New Right of the 1980s – as the object of our enquiries, this article explores the extent to which an attitudinal legacy is detectable among the citizens of the UK some 40 years after Margaret Thatcher first became Prime Minister. Our article, drawing on survey data collected in early 2019 (n = 5781), finds that younger generations express and seemingly embrace key tenets of her and her governments’ philosophies. Yet at the same time, they are keen to describe her government’s policies as having ‘gone too far’. Our contribution throws further light on the complex and often covert character of attitudinal legacies. One reading of the data suggests that younger generations do not attribute the broadly Thatcherite values that they hold to Thatcher or Thatcherism since they were socialised politically after such values had become normalised.
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