Voting Behaviour

Topics: Labour Party, Conservative Party, Conservatism Pages: 16 (3678 words) Published: March 21, 2011
Voting Behaviour in the UK

The study of voting behaviour is made difficult because:

a) Voting is in secret
b) Votes in the UK are pooled, and supposedly mixed up.

Yet political scientists have, since the War, and especially the 1960s been analysing voters and voting trends. Their weapons:

Political Polls
Opinion polls used since the 30s in the USA and the 40s in the UK give indication at all times, yet are only a predictor. •Exit Polls, adapted from marketing, are carried out by MORI or Gallop or ORC and other agencies.

Exit polls are not infallible but are the best scientific 'snapshot' we can get.
A number of models have been devised to look at how voters behave and to study the long term and short term changes in voting patterns.

Social Structures Model

[pic]Class and the de alignment of class loyalty.
[pic]Occupational Class

Class has always been pre eminent in the study of voting patterns in the UK. Simply put:
[pic]Working class families are basically Labour
[pic]Middle class families are basically Conservative In the classic period, and even today the pattern is close to: [pic]

In this case very strong class identification would lead to a constant victory at the polls for Labour. Yet the Conservatives in the 1950s 1970s and the 1980s broke this mould. The reason lay in the conservative ability to attract significant numbers of working class voters. [pic]

The old adage of British politics was that about 1/3 of the working class voted for the Conservative Party, this allowed for the Conservatives holding power in the 1951-64 1970-74 periods during the period of consensus.

The working class vote was seen as essential for the party to achieve office.

Some said deference in that working class voters may have perceived the Tories as the 'natural rulers' and better equipped and educated to govern. Others saw a class identification as many working class voters identified with middle class values one of which was to embrace the Conservative Party.

This is the process described as embourgoisement.
The working classes identifying with middle class social and economic values and political identification.

Others noticed the effect of the 'new towns' and the new industries that were less identified with the traditional heavy industries and Trade Union activities. Others identified the Conservatives as better managers of the economy and able to bring better conditions for all.

Historic Patterns
In the period of Consensus 1945-70 the classes seemed to be aligned. [pic]

Class identification was strong and most elections were won or lost on the loyalty of the working class vote to the two main parties. Labour was the 'natural' party for the w/c but there were often defections.

Consensus breakdown
In the 1970s this pattern began to break down. The economic upheavals of the 70s [pic]Unemployment, inflation, oil prices soaring.

This coincided with a serious disenchantment amongst the electorate for the two traditional parties. By the early 1980s there was a break up of the political process. Labour lost in 1979 in what appeared to be a normal election defeat, yet the swing to the Conservatives was strong (7.5%) and the skilled workers deserted to the Conservatives in greater numbers. Yet Labour assumed it would be back, and soon.

In 1983 Labour went down to a crushing defeat:
Professor Ivor Crew of the University of Essex analysed the result. The analysis made grim reading for Labour:
[pic]Cons 43%
[pic]Lab 28%
[pic]L/SDP 26%
The worst result for Labour as a modern party.

For Labour the long climb back would be slow, but what lessons would it learn from Crew and other analysis's?

Class De-alignment
Crew pointed out that in 1983 Labour only picked up...
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