As voting behaviour

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As voting behaviour

  1. 1. What determines voting behaviour? • Voting behaviour is determined by a combination of factors with varying degrees of importance. These include; – The media – Social class – The party leader – Age – Parents – Education – Region – Ethnicity – Gender – Religion – Opinion polls • For this section you need to be aware of protest voting, and tactical voting • There are also various models that aim to explain voting behaviour; such as the party identification model, rational choice theory and the issues-based modelPolitics – Voting Behaviour
  2. 2. The media and voting behaviour • The media plays a major role in determining voting behaviour in three ways • The media can shape the political agenda by focusing upon issues such as immigration and crime • The media can also choose what not to focus upon. For example in the 1997 General Election, their was little mention in the media of the healthy state of the economy, which may have weakened electoral support for the then Conservative government • Newspapers may also reinforce a reader’s voting behaviour. This is more noticeable with tabloid papers, who tend to take a more overtly biased stance. For example shortly after the 1997 General Election, one newspaper claimed “It’s the Sun wot won it!”Politics – Voting Behaviour
  3. 3. How important is the media? • A sustained media focus upon negative aspects of a party can have an impact upon voter perceptions. For example, the focus upon ‘sleaze’ and divisions over Europe within the Conservative government of John Major undoubtedly damaged the Tories electoral chances in the 1997 Election • In the 1980s most newspapers supported the Conservatives, whereas since 1997, most newspapers have supported new Labour. Based on this evidence, newspapers may have some degree of influence upon the result of the General ElectionPolitics – Voting Behaviour
  4. 4. Politicians and the media • Those who control the media are very powerful people, and as such, politicians want to maintain a good relationship with them. • This would suggest that party leaders consider the media to be an important influence upon voting behaviour. It is also the case that political parties and their leaders try to present a favourable media image. • In the modern era, it is widely believed that parties tailor their ‘image’ in order to attract as many voters as possiblePolitics – Voting Behaviour
  5. 5. Newspapers and their political bias LABOUR CONSERVATIVE • The Murdoch-owned press; • Daily Telegraph which includes the Sun, the • Daily Mail News of the World and the • Daily Express Times • Daily Mirror NEITHER • The Guardian • (The aptly-named) Independent • The Observer (the Guardian’s Sunday paper)Politics – Voting Behaviour
  6. 6. The importance of social class • During the 1950s and 60s, around two-thirds of the working-class voted Labour, and four-fifths of the middle- class voted Tory. It was therefore argued that social class was one of the most important factors determining voter behaviour. The political scientist called Peter Pulzer once claimed that “class is the basis of British party politics; all else is embellishment and detail.” • Today, many people still vote along class lines. For instance in the 2005 General Election, most Tory voters derived from social class AB and C1; whereas Labour gained most of its support from C2 and DE voters. However, the impact of social class has declined significantly due to changes to the occupational structure of the UK workforcePolitics – Voting Behaviour
  7. 7. What is class de-alignment? • A significant section of the electorate no longer votes along class lines. This reversal in traditional class-based voting patterns is called class de-alignment • Class de-alignment occurs when the middle-class vote Labour, and the working-class vote ConservativePolitics – Voting Behaviour
  8. 8. Class de-alignment • Middle-class Labour voters fall • Working-class Tory voters base their into three categories vote upon deference and support for Conservative policies • Public sector workers. This is • In the 1980s Mrs. Thatcher was primarily because Labour are particularly successful at appealing more likely to raise the level of to working-class (former Labour) public expenditure voters in the Midlands and the • People who work in ‘caring’ South professions such as health and • Since 1997 electoral turnout in ‘safe’ education, and Labour seats with a high • those who take a more liberal concentration of working-class voters has declined. However unlike stance on lifestyle issues, such the 1980s, many working-class as women’s rights and gay voters have simply stayed at home rights rather than switch to the Conservative partyPolitics – Voting Behaviour
  9. 9. Other factors (1) • The party leader. With the increasing media focus upon the leader of a party, the electoral contest is portrayed as the Prime Minister against the leader of the official opposition. As such, the electoral appeal of the party leader can have a decisive impact upon voting behaviour. For example Tony Blair was considered an electoral asset for the Labour party for many years. However, he is now widely considered to be an electoral liability • Age. Old age pensioners are more likely to vote Conservative, whereas younger voters and middle-aged voters are much more likely to support the Labour party • Parents. First-time voters can be greatly influenced by the political views of their parents. Even after children leave home, their choice of party can still be influenced by their parentsPolitics – Voting Behaviour
  10. 10. Other factors (2) • Education. Students who went to independent schools and grammar schools are much more likely to vote Conservative, whereas those who attended comprehensive schools are more inclined to support the Labour party • Regional factors. There is a notable geographical division within the UK; with voters in Scotland, Northern England and Wales more likely to vote Labour. Inner-city areas are also more likely to elect a Labour MP. In contrast, Conservative support is heavily concentrated in rural areas and in the South of England. Electoral support for the Liberal Democrats tends to be stronger in South-West England and the ‘Celtic fringe’Politics – Voting Behaviour
  11. 11. Other factors (3) • Ethnicity. Labour have traditionally secured high levels of support from ethnic minorities, but since the Iraq war, many Muslim voters have switched to the Liberal Democrats. In recent years the Conservative party has tried to broaden its appeal to ethnic minorities, and in the 2005 election, it fielded more ethnic minority candidates than any other party • Gender. In the 2005 General Election Labour held a slight lead over the Tories amongst female voters. This was primarily due to the Government’s family-friendly policies. Male voters were evenly split between the two main partiesPolitics – Voting Behaviour
  12. 12. Other factors (4) • Religion. The Conservatives usually gain strong support from those who attend Church of England services, whereas Labour tend to do well with Methodist church- goers. However in terms of its impact upon voting behaviour, religion is of minor importance • Opinion polls can have an affect upon voting behaviour during a General Election. For example, voters may stay at home if the result appears to be a foregone conclusion. This might partly explain the low level of turnout in the last three General elections. Alternatively, opinion polls can create a “bandwagon effect”, as in 1997 when Labour regained power after 18 years in opposition. In some countries, opinion polls are banned in the run-up to an election due to their possible impact upon the resultPolitics – Voting Behaviour
  13. 13. What is meant by protest voting? • Protest voting. A small percentage of the electorate registers a protest vote. In 2005, many traditional Labour voters switched to the Liberal Democrats in protest at Blair’s support for the Iraq war. In addition, extremist parties such as the BNP gain a great deal of their support from protest voters, particularly in working-class constituenciesPolitics – Voting Behaviour
  14. 14. What is tactical voting? • Tactical voting occurs when a voter does not support their preferred party, but votes for another party to keep out the party they most dislike. Tactical voting was a major factor in 1997 and 2001, when Labour and Liberal Democrat voters switched in order to keep out the Conservative partyPolitics – Voting Behaviour
  15. 15. The party identification model • This model implies that voters stay loyal to a particular party from one election to another. People identify with a party from an early age on the basis of social class, the influence of parents, etc. • Since the 1960s, the party identification model has become less convincing due to a decline in electoral loyalty. Voters are now much less inclined to take a partisan view of political parties, partly because of a decline in deference and a growing mistrust of politicians • Due to this decline in party loyalty, a high number of votes are ‘up for grabs.’ As such, there is a small but crucial number of floating voters (voters that switch allegiance from one party to another) in marginal constituencies that ultimately decide the result of a General ElectionPolitics – Voting Behaviour
  16. 16. Rational choice theory • According to this model voters base their choice of party upon the record of the main parties, particularly in terms of the economy. During the 1980s the Tories were most trusted to run the economy, but in recent years the economy has been a relatively strong card for the Labour party • Rational choice theory implies that voters believe there is little ideological difference between the main parties. As such, a rational voter merely chooses which party he/she feels best represents their (and their families) interests. For example, someone employed in the public sector might vote Labour due to a perceived ‘rational’ interestPolitics – Voting Behaviour
  17. 17. Issues - based model • This model suggests that voters base their choice upon which party deals most effectively with the issues that he/she cares most about. For example, a right-wing voter may place a high priority upon issues such as law and order and illegal immigration, whereas a left-wing voter may be more concerned with welfare issues • All political parties focus their campaign upon issues they believe to be their strongest cards. Generally speaking, the Labour party will focus upon health and education, whereas the Conservatives will emphasise issues such as tax, immigration and law and order. In the 2005 General Election, the Liberal Democrats focused their campaign primarily upon their opposition to the Iraq war, and their pledge to abolish tuition fees • With the decline in party identification and class based voting, the issue-based model has become more persuasive in recent yearsPolitics – Voting Behaviour
  18. 18. Electoral turnout • Electoral turnout is measured as a percentage of those registered to vote. In the 1950 General Election, 84% of the electorate turned out to vote – a post-war record • Voter apathy has grown in recent years, which has led to a major decline in voter turnout from 71% in 1992 to just 59% in 2001 • In 2005, the figure was 61%. In terms of numbers, more people voted in the TV show “I’m a celebrity, get me out of here!” than in the General Election • As a result, barely 1 in 5 of the electorate registered support for the Labour party • There are various factors that might explain low electoral turnout (see next slide)Politics – Voting Behaviour
  19. 19. How might we explain low turnout? • Voters feel there is little to choose between the main parties in terms of ideology and policies • Disillusionment with mainstream politics. This is a particular problem amongst young people • In the last three General elections, the opinion polls implied that the final result was never really in doubt. As such many people stayed at home, particularly in ‘safe’ Labour seats • The feeling amongst some of the electorate that one vote cannot make much of a difference • Boredom with the political process • The growing sense that politicians do not listen to the views of the people, or fail to live up to their promisesPolitics – Voting Behaviour
  20. 20. Recent turnout in UK General ElectionsPolitics – Voting Behaviour

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