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Voting Behaviour in the UK
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There are a variety of different models and social factors, which will impact on voting behaviour. Need to be able to look in detail at the differing factors but more importantly have figures to back this up.

Party Identification – The idea that children identify with a political party and will stick to that party for the rest of their lives. Although they may vote for another party in exceptional circumstances but predominantly stay loyal. This was an important factor post WW2 but has declined significantly.

Social Class – Party alignment based upon class has been a traditional predictor of a person’s voter behaviour. However this has declined over the past 40 years and we can see evidence of class dealignment. A, B & C1 used to vote Conservative. C2, D & E used to vote Labour, however no longer the case.

2017 UK General Election voter breakdown - Social Group  (Source Ipos MORI)

Party                  AB      C1      C2      DE

Conservative    47       44       45       38
Labour                37       40       41       47

2015 UK General Election voter breakdown - Social Group  (Source Ipos MORI)

Party                  AB      C1      C2      DE

Conservative    45       41       32       27
Labour                26       29       32       41

Previous UK General Election voter social group breakdown

 

AB

C1

C2

DE

1992

2010

1992

2010

1992

2010

1992

2010

Conservative

53

39

48

39

40

37

29

32

Labour

23

26

28

28

39

29

52

40

 

Gender & Age 

2017 UK General Election voter breakdown - Gender and Age  (Source Ipos MORI)

Gender        Conservative       Labour
Men              44                            40
Women        43                            42

Age              Conservative       Labour

18-24           27                           62
25-34           27                           56
35-44           33                           49
45-54           43                           40
55-64           51                           34
65+               61                           25

2015 UK General Election voter breakdown - Gender and Age  (Source Ipos MORI)

Gender        Conservative       Labour
Men              38                            30
Women        37                            33

Age              Conservative       Labour

18-24           27                           43
25-34           33                           36
35-44           35                           35
45-54           36                           33
55-64           37                           31
65+               47                           23

Previous UK General Election voter gender and age  breakdown

 

Conservative

Labour

Gender

1992

2010

1992

2010

Men

38

38

36

28

Women

44

36

34

31

Age

1992

2010

1992

2010

18-24

38

30

35

31

25-34

37

35

41

30

35-44

38

34

38

31

45-64

44

36

35

28

65+

49

44

33

31

 

Region – Traditionally there has been a north/south divide, with Labour dominating in the north, primarily urban areas and the Conservatives in the south in rural areas. At the  2015 election the most obvious difference is the Conservative superiority in England and the SNP almost total dominance in Scotland. 

Rational Choice – This is a model which ignores any of the factors above. Instead the voter bases their decision upon a rational decision after looking at the manifestos, leaders and the record of the parties.

Issue Voting – Looking at the different policies you vote positively for ideas you support or against ideas you hate. Key areas are economy, health and education.

Party Competence – For example the Conservatives were previously trusted with the economy, until October 1992 and Black Wednesday. After this Labour were able to demonstrate their competence in this important area until 2008.

Leadership – Elections have become more presidentialised and as such leaders are under increasing scrutiny. Their personality can have a huge impact on how people vote, e.g. Gordon Brown’s “bigoted” woman comment on Gillian Duffy in 2010  or  Ed Miliband's Ed Stone in 2015. Of course this election has increased the scrutiny with the PM debates. in 2017 Theresa May did not participate in the leadership debate and used the catchphrase "strong and stable", which Labour was fairly successful in changing to "weak and wobbly".

Voting Context Model – Voters are trying to put the election into context and this can be seen in the following areas.

Media – This can have an effect, particularly with the social media. Newspapers have traditionally held sway but this is changing rolling news channels, internet and social media e.g. Facebook and twitter ensuring people registered to vote.

In 2010 newspapers nearly all turned their backs on Labour leader Gordon Brown, just the Mirror remained. Independent, Observer and Guardian all opted for a reform of the system standpoint. Brown did receive a lot of adverse publicity but did it really affect him?

In 2015 and 2017 the UK national newspapers were largely backing the same parties they had in the past. By 2017 the impact of newspaper backing has been reduced because of the huge decline in newspaper readership particularly amongst younger voters.

Impact on voter turnout – A low turnout figure does undermine the legitimacy of the winning party and so it is imperative that it is as high as possible.

Turnout in 2010 was 65.1%

Turnout in 2015 was 66.1%

Turnout in 2017 was 68.7%

Turnout has dropped sharply since 1997, particularly in the 18-24 category  (although this was slightly reversed in 2017) and there are a number of reasons why:

  • Social mobility has broken the community ties that young people feel
  • Lack of party identification means that people don’t feel an association with a party
  • The result was too predictable therefore there is little point in voting
  • People are joining pressure groups as they are more effective
  • Parties are too similar on policy
  • Election campaign goes on for too long and people get bored

Opinion Polls – It is open to debate as to how much influence opinion polls have but in France they ban them in the run up to elections because they feel it can have a detrimental effect on the outcome. Others believe there is little impact but there can sometimes be a bandwagon effect where a party gets ahead in the polls and people just flock to them because they want to be associated with winning.

In 2017 most of the polls were pointing to a large Conservative Majority, many underestimated the increase in young voters who mostly backed Labour. However the Conservatives failed to get a majority and had a rely on a confidence and supply deal with Northern Ireland's DUP. 

In the 2015 election the opinion polls were largely completely inaccurate. A hung parliament was predicted throughout the election campaign. Most polls predicted an almost identical amount of seats for Labour and the Conservatives. On Election Day political commentators declared the result too close to call. However the Conservatives went on to win a small majority enabling them to govern alone for the first time in 18 years.  

Tactical Voting – This has been a consistent part of voting for some time, where you vote for a party you don’t support to keep out a party you really dislike. Previously it has been the Conservatives who have been attacked through tactical voting and this happened clearly in 1997 & 2001. It has happened less so at the last two elections because of Labour’s unpopular war in Iraq and the changing nature of the Conservative Party.

Influence of campaigns – Very rarely a decisive factor, the 3 week period in the run up to the election sees the main parties travelling across the country to outline their message, spending thousands of pounds as they go. 

General Election 2017 (also known as the "Brexit or Snap General Election)

  • The Conservatives tried to make the election all about Brexit and Theresa May's perceived strength at negotiating with the EU
  • TV debate featured 6 party leaders: Labour, SNP, Liberal Democrat, UKIP, Green Party and Plaid Cymru - Theresa May did not attend and sent Amber Rudd (Home Secretary) in her place
  • Social Media playing an ever larger role in the election campaign, the Labour Party were successful in increases engagement with younger voters
  • Jeremy Corbyn largely unpopular at the start of the campaign, however opinions began to change with Corbyn finishing the campaign almost as popular as Theresa May
  • Some voters feared Conservative landslide
  • Theresa May had a disastrous campaign, her personal popularity plummeted as the campaign went on
  • UKIP,  the Liberal Democrat and Green Party vote declined as the nation largely went back to two party politics (with Conservatives and Labour getting over 80% of the vote for the first time since the 1970's)
  • Election campaign ignited by "The Dementia Tax" a Conservative policy which put off many of their core older voters.
  • Jeremy Corbyn and Labour's anti austerity message was very popular amongst younger voters (including scrapping University Tuition Fees)
  • Security began to dominate the campaign in  the last two weeks following the Manchester Arena bomb and the London Bridge terrorist attack
  • Many voters felt Theresa May's snap decision to hold a general election in 2017 was unnecessary

General Election 2015

  • First TV debates to feature 7 party leaders: Conservative, Labour, SNP, Liberal Democrat, UKIP, Green Party and Plaid Cymru
  • Social Media playing an ever larger role in the election campaign
  • Ed Miliband largely unpopular and labour perceived as weak on the economy
  • Voters in England and Wales may have feared the SNP in coalition with Labour
  • David Cameron more popular than Ed Milliband despite his coalitions austerity package
  • Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats had largely been blamed for coalition policies
  • Election campaign ignited by "The Ed Stone"
  • Economy top issue due to the cuts and austerity
  • Immigration continued to be an issue of concern to many

General Election 2010

  • First use of TV debates involving three party leaders (Gordon Brown - Labour, David Cameron - Conservative, Nick Clegg - Liberal Democrat)
  • Feeling that it would be an election controlled by the Social Media
  • Gordon Brown deeply unpopular
  • David Cameron popular but not convincing
  • Nick Clegg the real surprise with strong showing on TV
  • Election campaign ignited due to bigoted woman comment by Brown
  • Economy top issue due to the cuts
  • Labour lost their competency in this area
  • Immigration Law & Order became more important issue that all sides had to tackle

General Election 2005

  • Michael Howard could not compete with Blair
  • Conservatives focused on the contentious issues such as immigration and asylum
  • Even the conviction of Kamel Bourgass a terrorist who killed a PC and was plotting to poison people could not see immigration as a major issue
  • Conservative image was still poor
  • They still supported the Iraq War and their claim “vote Blair get Brown” was quite popular
  • Tax did not become a major issue. Labour could point to a strong economy
  • Law and Order did not interest the public at large
  • Labour had a good track record on economy, health and education combined with the fact that the Tories weren’t trusted
  • Labour were able to win even with problems such as Iraq War collapse of MG Rover and tuition fees
  • Labour still supported by the majority of the media
  • Lib Dems tried to gain disgruntled Labour voters by proposing 50% tax for those who earned £100000 p.a.
  • Displayed their opposition to Iraq War and tuition fees
  • Yet Labour still displayed party competence whereas the Lib Dems were seen as disorganized
  • However their majority was reduced, although still large enough to pass their legislation

General Election 2001

  • Again Blair easily outshone William Hague as leader
  • Labour very competent and trusted in key areas e.g. economy health and education
  • Tories seen as out of touch still talking about EU and immigration
  • Electorate not engaged hence lowest ever turnout
  • Only interesting thing was Prescott punching a bloke
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