chapter  18
28 Pages

Voting behaviour

Two major approaches have dominated the study of voting behaviour in the UK since the end of the Second World War. The first focuses on the social characteristics of voters, particularly occupational class, and their long-term attachments to the Labour and Conservative parties. This perspective was dominant from 1950 (when the first systematic research was conducted) to 1970 – a period in which most electors voted for parties that were believed to represent the interests of their social class. Since 1970, social class has become less effective in predicting how people will vote. Accordingly, political scientists now concentrate on a series of short-term factors, such as issues, party leaders and voter perceptions of the main parties, which influence an individual’s decision how to vote. This chapter focuses on these approaches and assesses voting behaviour in recent general elections. However, it should be remembered that the simple plurality electoral system does not translate votes into seats in the House of Commons accurately and that turnout has been very low in recent elections (see Chapter 17).