SOCIAL CLASS REMAINS THE MAIN DETERMANT OF VOTING BEHAVIOUR IN UK ELECTIONS (25 MARK QUESTION ESSAY)

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SOCIAL CLASS REMAINS THE MAIN DETERMANT OF VOTING BEHAVIOUR IN UK ELECTIONS (25) Elizabeth Stow 

Link for most statistics: http://www.earlhamsociologypages.co.uk/govpol.html (really great.)

INTRODUCTION Social class refers to a divide in society based on social and economic status. It includes material and cultural capital, social mobility and education level. It is formally split into occupational sections, with AB at the higher, managerial end, and DE at the bottom, containing the unemployed and lowest skilled workers. This question suggests that such segregation is related to a person’s political culture, and thus voting behaviour. This essay will discuss the quality and validity of the aforementioned statement.

POINT One factor which is arguably more prominent than social class is partisan alignment. This phrase refers to a strong psychological attachment to any one political party even through times of political storm and instability. EVIDENCE Partisan alignment was much greater in the post-war period - In the 1960’s, 90% of all voters reported a long-term attachment to a political party – and most of these voted in accordance with social class position, as differences in political socialization encouraged them to identify with broad image of “natural class party”. Looking from 1945-1970 62% of the franchised ‘working class’ voted Labour, whilst 66% of the ‘middle class ‘voted Conservative – however in recent years this allegiance has wavered – with the Conservative party winning the 2015 General Election with a share of only 35% of all votes cast. EXPLAIN It can be presumed that this is due to the foundation origins of the two main parties – traditionalist paternalism on behalf of the Conservatives, appealing to those with stable lifestyles, and social democracy on behalf of the Labour party, appealing mostly to poorer working class people – whom, with nothing to lose, generally favor more radical politics.

ANALYSE There has, however, been a rising trend of deviant class voters, evidenced in the 23% of Labour voters within the AB class, and 29% of Conservative voters in the DE class, voting for the retrospective parties in the 2015 General Election. This may be due instead to the ‘drift’ of each party away from their origins, and the blurring/merging of core ideological differences between them. An increasing number of voters are forming ideologically coherent political beliefs, and voting in favour or in protest of those – arguably rendering Partisan alignment a thing of the past.

POINT Another factor which can be said to influence voting behaviour at UK elections is emborgeoisment – the replacement of the old, traditional working class, with the new middle class. With rising living standards in Britain, and rising pay levels, those who once saw themselves as working class, now begin to feel, and behave, more middle class.  EVIDENCE The introduction of the welfare state as social security in 1946 ensured that no Briton had or will have to suffer poverty and need to an extent anyway resembling the hardship of wartime. The introduction of a basic living wage and support for all has enabled people…

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