Voting behaviour theories

different theories of voting behaviour:

- Rational choice

- Dominant ideology

- Sociological Theory

- Party identification

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Rational Choice theory

This theory states that we, as individuals, decide which political party we vote for by observing which would benefit us, and our friends and families, the most:

- Started in 1980s

- Consumerist approach - like customer going into market

- Some studies in 1980s & 1990s show that choices voters make might be influenced by external factors e.g. the media

- Sander (1996) stated that the economy & how it was affecting lives was an impotant factor for voters

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Party Identification theory

Political preferance is influenced by the process of socialisation, children normally show preference to the same political party as their parents. They have a psycholgical attachement to the party often referred to as Partisan alignment. Voters tend to stick to the same party long term:

- In recent years signs of Partisan De-alignment have been noticed.

- Partisan De-alignment is the decrease of party identification

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Dominant Ideology Theory

Similiar to Rational Choice but believes that our choices are influenced by the media

- Put forward by Dunleavy & Husbands (1985)

- Media help to determine agenda for debate

- Media reflects a 'Dominant Ideology' & voters vote for the party with a conforming policy

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Sociological theory

Sociologists state that it is an individual's social characteristics that influence their voting behaviour e.g. social class or ethnicity:

- Pulzar (1967) - 'Class is the basis of British politics; all else is embellishment and detail'

- Working class generally voted Labour whereas Middle Class voted for The Conservatives.

Other characteristics include: Ethnicity, Religion, Gender & Religion

- Class alignment is the term used to describe class influenced voting

- Class De-alignment describes the deviance from traditional class based voting

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Parry's findings(1980s)

  • 23.2% were involved in indirect methods of politics e.g. protests, petitions, pressure groups etc
  • 51% limitied involvement to participating in elections
  • 25.85& were almost inactive
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Milbrath & Goel

Gladiators - Individuals who actively involve themselves in politics

Spectators - Individuals who watch but only take part in elections

Apathetics - Individuals who take no part in politics

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cynthia archeresuah


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