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Voting Behaviour in Britain Lynn Bennie
What are the main influences on voting in Britain? STUDIES OF VOTING BEHAVIOUR THE BUTLER AND STOKES MODEL VOTING BEHAVIOUR FACTORS DEALIGNMENT AND REASONS FOR CHANGE RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN ELECTION STUDIES TURNOUT CONCLUSION: 2005 and Beyond
STUDIES OF VOTING BEHAVIOUR Methods: Analysis of election results Voter surveys e.g. British Election Study. We have data on 40 years of elections.
BUTLER AND STOKES Political Change in Britain 1964, 1966, 1970 Class and partisan id key i.e. long-term factors Importance of socialisation
Class Central cleavage in society 1966: of the 100 constituencies with the largest % of manual workers, Lab won 99. Pulzer 1967: Class central determinant, all else is embellishment and detail.
VOTING BEHAVIOUR FACTORS Long term structural factors: Class* Religion Sex Age (=PARTY ID & SOCIOLOGICAL MODELS)
Factors cont. Short term: Issues Personalities Leaders Campaigns The media (=RATIONAL CHOICE MODELS)
Ivor Crewe (in Bartle & King 2005) There is no way of knowing, but there are ways of arriving at credible probabilities. One useful approach is to think of any election result as the product of long-term structural factors and short-term campaign factors.
Dealignment/ Change Decline in voter loyalty/class id/partisan id 1966: 46% very strongly identified with a party. 2005: 8% But: Total with some id: %; %
Other indicators of change Tactical voting: 17% of Lib Dems in 05. Issue voting: Economy, Iraq war Campaigns matter Media Decline in turnout Rise in support for other parties. Decline in party membership Rise in general cynicism
= INCREASED VOLATILITY A Restless Electorate 1997: Swing of 10% from Con to Lab = double post-war record of 79 ¼ of voters did not support same party Rise in support for others Move from habitual to judgemental voting (Denver)
Reasons: Bottom-up. Increase in education Changing occupational and industrial structures Decline of working class Increase in affluence Cross-cutting pressures
But also Top-down Performance of governments The Media Leading to disillusionment Overall = shift in balance between long- term (-) and short-term (+)
Turnout 2001 = 59.2%. Lowest since – 61.3% Generational change evident – decline in duty to vote/ sense of civic duty in Thatcher and Blair generations So, turn-out likely to remain low???
Recent BES evidence Harold Clarke et al 2004 Analyse entire series of BES Note the general decline in sense of civic duty Decline of position politics and rise of valence politics
Position Politics Involves issues on which the public take different sides e.g. privatisation, trade union rights. It was previously argued that voters assessed the parties on issues and voted for the party that was closest to their own position.
Valence Politics General judgements on party policies (the economy), party performance and leaders. Involves issues on which everyone is (more or less) agreed on the end to be pursued e.g. crime, peace and prosperity, corruption.
Competence key = general judgement on the relative competence of the parties to achieve desired ends. = the politics of delivery, not fixed ideological positions Labour seen as most competent, until now….
Partisan id no longer important? Still important, but reconceptualised Valenced partisanship A storehouse of accumulated party and party leader performance evaluations. It is continuously updated as voters acquire new information and react to events – voters continuously make judgements about the competence of parties, governments and leaders.
Are old models at all relevant? YouGov polls ask if people generally identify with any party – and 70% say yes. BES reveals that over 80% of voters still identify with one party Most survey respondents in BES are stable in their party id Still possible to identify natural Lab & Con supporters, and at a constituency level point to Cons and Lab heartlands. So, tribal voters still exist (Denver).
But VB more complicated now Greater turbulence within the electorate. Non-voting phenomenon is a hot topic - we could do more to understand this. In 2005, the Govt was elected with the support of only 21.6% of the eligible electorate i.e. non- voters (40%) out-number those who voted for the winning party by nearly 2 to 1. Has led to much debate in parties and universities = democratically legitimate??
Conclusion Top-level political scientists simply debate the importance of different factors and influences. Most do not/ cannot offer definitive conclusions.