Voting behaviour and election systems

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Simple voting behaviour

  • Easiest way to explain voting behaviour- long term & short term factors
  • Primacy factor- predispose an individual to support a particular political party and recency factors moderate their outlook 
  • Primarcy model 
    • long term e.g. class- more important than short term in deciding elections
    • Supporters see stability in behaviour not volatility 
  • Recency model 
    • hold voting pattern - more volatile in process such as embourgeoisement - led class and partisan dealignment 
    • Result - short term ( issues, events leaders) more important - 10 million voters make mind up in last month

More complex 

  • Social structures model 
    • Effective in other way of framing in primacy 
    • Emphasises influence social cleavages on outcomes 
    • Belief in enduring influence of long term suggest behaviour stable - low electoral swing because social factors only change slowly  
  • Party Identification model 
    • Individuals identify with political party and stick with it. 
    • 1950s - over 90% voters voted with either Labour or Conservatives 
    • However, 2010- figure fallen by 65.1%
    • Fact- strongly identified with either party dropped from 45%to 13% between 1964 and 2001- decline in share the vote 
    • Process weakening party ties = party dealignment 
  • Rational Choice model 
    •  Made by individuals voters
    • variants of the model focus of short term such as issues: performance of parties, leaders, state of economy 
    • Key term: 
      • An approach to they study of politics that focuses on the actions of rational individuals who purse their own interests 

What do we mean by tacital voting and protest voting 

  • Tactical voting:
    • Individuals choose to vote for a candidate that is not or her preferred candidate- so candidate that least favour of being elected 
  • Protest voting:
    • Voter back other candidates from different party to send normal party a message or to government 
    • Occurs elections where outcomes is less crucial to voters e.g. local election or elections to the EU Parliament 

What is Swing? 

A measurement of the movement of voters from one party to another, between one election and the next. It is expressed in percentage. Labour fell 6.2%, Conservatives by 3.7% a swing 4.95% from L to C ( 6.2+3.7=9.9/2= 4.95)

What is Churned? 

  • Even if swing is small - 2001 1.8%
  • Voting appears fairly stable, the headline statistics may serve to obsure underlying volatility 
  • Due to churn: wher large numbes of voters switch their support between parties, elections, while the headline statistics remain the same 

The impact of the media 

  • Media: broadcast media (TV, radio), press (newspapers, journals, magazines); new media ( internet)
    • BBC and ITC - legally required remain politically impartial. 
    • Newspaper - free to take sides 
      • Sun famously support Cons in 1992, with memorable headlines 'Will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the light' - when Labour victory appeared likely. 
      • Paul Whiteley - suggested Sun backing Labour cost Cons around 500,000 voters 
      • Labour:- Mirror and Sunday Mirror
      • Cons:- Daily Express, Daily Telegraph, The Times, Sun, Daily Mail, Financial Times, Mail on Sunday,Sunday Express, Sunday TImes, News of the World. 
      • Lib Dems:- Guardian and Observer 

The Significance of opinion polls 


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