Electoral systems

  • Created by: dbrennan
  • Created on: 29-05-19 16:24
General elections
Elect all 650 MPs of the House of Commons.
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Fixed-Term Parliament Act 2011
Fixed 5-year terms for governments. PM must seek 2/3 majority in the Commons in order to trigger an early general election.
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Devolved Assemblies elections
Held every 5 years
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Local elections
Fixed 4-year terms for local councillors. Directly elected mayors, police and crime commissioners.
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European Parliament elections
MEPs are elected every 5 years.
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Chooses a new representative if a constituency seat becomes vacant in the Commons due to death or resignation.
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Unelected parts of UK political system
Head of state (monarch), upper-chamber (HOL) & the judiciary
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Electoral systems
Majoritarian system, plurality system, proportional system & mixed system.
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Majoritarian system
The winning candidate must achieve an absolute majority of votes cast in a single-member constituency.
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Single-member plurality system
The candidate with the most votes in a single-member constituency wins.
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Proportional representation
Uses multi-member constituencies: electoral formula is used to match the percentage of seats won by each party to the percentage of votes they won.
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Mixed system
Some representatives are elected under a majoritarian/plurality system in single-member constituencies, while others are under additional member system using PR in multi-member constituencies.
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Explain how majoritarian systems are different to PR systems
Absolute majority, elected in single-member constituencies, outcome is not proportional
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For which elections is FPTP used?
General elections
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For which election is SV used?
Mayor of London, directly elected mayors, police & crime commissioners.
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For which election is the Regional list used?
European Parliament elections, list seats for the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly & London Assembly.
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For which election is STV used?
Assembly, local (Scotland & N.Ireland) & European Parliament elections (N.Ireland)
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For which election is AMS used?
Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, London Assembly.
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Features of FPTP
Single-constituency system (650 in total), one person one vote, constituencies are roughly the same size (70,000), one candidate is returned 'winner-takes-all', winning candidate must achieve a plurality of votes.
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Advantages of FPTP
Clear electoral choice, constituency representation, mandate democracy, strong government & stable government.
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Disadvantages of FPTP
Dispraportional, two-party system, causes landslide victories, voter turnout decline, unaccountable government, narrow political consensus culture.
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Electoral fairness (Plurality vs PR)
Party's strength in Parliament should reflect that of the support of the country: in FPTP not all people's votes share the same value. PR: no votes are wasted/less wasted votes.
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All votes count (Plurality vs PR)
FPTP: Governments elected get a plurality vote, not always a 50% majority, unlike elections under PR.
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What is a FPTP majority? (Plurality vs PR)
FPTP: 35% minimum- this happened in 2005.
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Accountable government (Plurality vs PR)
FPTP leads to executive domination because a single-party has control of the Commons. Under PR: governments have to listen to Parliament as they will need the support of two or more parties.
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Consensus political culture (Plurality vs PR)
PR: distrubtion of political power is wider, wider range of parties in legislation, negotiation and compromise. More of 'partnership politics'.
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What type of electoral system is FPTP?
A plurality system
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What type of system is AMS?
Mixed system
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What type of system is STV?
Quota system
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What type of system is Regional party list?
List system
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What type of system is AV?
Majority system
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What type of system is SV?
Majority system
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Non-proportional system
Tends to overrepresent larger parties and usually results in a single-party majority government.
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Plurality system
The largest number out of a collection of numbers: a simple majority rather than an absolute majority.
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Proportional system
Tends to represent parties in-line with their electoral support.
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2015 Belfast General Election
Social Democratic and Labour Party: 24.5%
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Safe seat
A constituency where the same party wins election after election because the incumbent's majority is so large.
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Safe seat example 2017 General Election
Liverpool, Walton: Labour won 88% of the vote.
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Marginal seats
A constituency where the incumbent party has a small majority, therefore the constituency will be won by a different party at the next general election.
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The extent of change in support for one party, in comparison of supporting another party from one election to the other.
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2017 General election (marginal seats)
Saw SNP win North East Fife by just 2 votes.
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2017 General Election (marginal/super-marginal votes)
Some majorities were of less than 100 votes.
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2017 General Election (Swing)
Labour swing: 2% (would make Labour largest party in the Commons at the next election) and Conservative swing: 1% (they would win a Parliamentary majority).
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Case Study: 2017 general election
Conservatives and Labour: 82% of the vote (highest figure since 1970), 1st general election since 1951 for both main parties to gain votes,
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Example of FPTP over-exaggerating election results
2017 general election: the share of seats won by the Conservative Party was higher than their share of the vote.
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Features of FPTP elections
Two-party system, a winner's bonus, bias to a majority party, discrimination against third/smaller parties and single-party government
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What is a winner's bonus?
The share of seats that the winning party wins in relation to its share of the vote under FPTP.
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What does a winner's bonus do?
FPTP exaggerates the support received by the most popular party; gives it more seats than its proportional to the number of votes it received, thus boosting its parliamentary majority.
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overwhelming majority of votes for one party/candidate in an election.
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Labour Landslide victories
1997: 63.4% of seats & 43.4% of vote.
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Conservative landslide victories
1983: 36.1% of seats & 42.4%of vote 1987: 57.8% of seats & 42.3% of vote
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Bias to one major party: Conservative
Between 1997 and 2005: proportion of seats was lower than their share of the vote.
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Bias to one major party: Labour
Between 1990s and 2010.
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Tactical voting
Labour benefited from anti-Conservative tactical voting between 1997-2005.
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Examples of low turnout
2015: 62% for Labour and 69% for Conservatives.
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Example of tactical voting
2017: Conservative Party gained 12 seats in Scotland by an anti-SNP tactical vote.
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Case Study: 2010 general election
First general election to produce a hung Parliament since 1974, Conservative party fell 19 seats short of a Parliamentary majority, net gain of 97 seats, led labour by 7%, but their 36% of the vote was well short that of between 1979 and 1992.
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Case Study: 2010 general election
Labour fell below 30% of the vote for 2nd time since 1945, benefited from disparities in constituency size and turnout.
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Minority government
A government with one political party which does not have an absolute majority of seats.
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Coalition government
A government consisting of two or more political parties, usually with an absolute majority.
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Majority government
A government consisting of members of one political party that gains an absolute majority of seats.
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Case Study: 2015 general election
Saw the production of single-party government after the Lib-Dem/Con coalition of 2010-2015, tactical vote of Conservative party to avoid hung Parliament, Conservative: 50.8% of the seats and 36.8% of the vote.
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Electoral deserts
Parts of the country where a party has little or no representation.
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Examples of electoral deserts
2017: Conservative won 34% of the vote in North East England, but only 10% of the region's seats.
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Wasted vote
A vote for a losing candidate in a single-member constituency.
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Tactical voting
Voting for the candidate who is most likely to defeat the least-favoured candidate.
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Case Study: 1997 general election
10.2% swing for the Labour party from Conservative party, parliamentary majority of 179,. Conservative party: 30% of the vote, no MPs in the devolved assemblies. Lib Dems: 46 seats, 1% decline in their share of the vote, doubled their tally of seats.
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Case Study: 1997 general election
Labour and Lib Dems gained 50 seats that were lost from tories through tactical voting.
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Adversarial politics
Governing party is confronted by an opposition party that offers a different policy programme & is hostile towards the government even when they agree with them.
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Who won the 1979 general election?
Thatcher-Conservative party
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Who won the 1997 general election?
Tony Blair-Labour party
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Who won the 2010 general election?
No party won: Lib Dem & Con coalition- David Cameron and Nick Clegg
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Who won the 2015 general election?
Conservative party-David Cameron (resigned in 2016, May succeeded him).
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Who won the 2017 general election?
Conservative party-Theresa May (unfortunately).
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Other cards in this set

Card 2


Fixed 5-year terms for governments. PM must seek 2/3 majority in the Commons in order to trigger an early general election.


Fixed-Term Parliament Act 2011

Card 3


Held every 5 years


Preview of the back of card 3

Card 4


Fixed 4-year terms for local councillors. Directly elected mayors, police and crime commissioners.


Preview of the back of card 4

Card 5


MEPs are elected every 5 years.


Preview of the back of card 5
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