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voting behaviour is no longer class based

Asked by tinkerbell1 | May 21, 2007 | A Level > Sociology > Revision
tinkerbell1 asks:

Hi i just want to make sure i have got the jist of this essay.
Should i start with explaining how it was class based ie class alignment theory and provide explanations of why it now isnt ie labour now catch all not party of working class?
Should i talk about blurring of classes and globalisation how this has introduced rational choice?lack of loyalty? other effectors ie age,gender,ethnicity
Then conclude that class is still main effector but prehaps other polictical participation is in fact what we need to address ie rise of social movements and pressure groups????

Is this along the right tracks please point me in other directions if not thank you

etutor answers:

Yes, this is entirely the right approach. You might usefully start by including the quotation by Peter Pulzer (1968) - 'Class is the key to voting behaviour; all else is embellishment and detail'; to a large extent, as you suggest, this remains the case today.

It's important to discuss the influence of the TWO theories of dealignment. Class dealignment refers to the idea that the boundaries between social classes have become much less clear in recent decades, and so, for example, it is perhaps no longer possible to talk simply of the 'working class' - many commentators maintain that there is a 'new' working class, characterised by high skill, non-union membership and living in privately bought rather than rented accommodation. Their voting support (at least in the 1980s) was therefore much less likely to g o to Labour, as many in this group were attracted by Conservative policies such as lower taxes, trade union reform and council house sales to tenants. Similarly, a distinction can often be made for the middle classes between those working in the private sector and those working in the public sector, with the latter group increasingly likely to vote Labour or LibDem rather than Conservative. There is an overlap with partisan dealignment - the idea that voters have become much less secure in their attachment to their traditional parties. This links with the idea that voting behaviour has become more volatile and unpredictable, reflected in growing support for smaller parties, tactical voting, issue-based voting and (often) large swings at elections (as in, say, 1997).

This would allow you to go on to discuss the growing importance of issue-based voting - and in particular, perceptions about a party's competence so far as running the economy and delivering higher living standards are concerned. Other issues of significance in recent elections have included the NHS, education and law and order. In 2005, Iraq and tuition fees were major issues, helping the LibDems and losing Labour many votes, especially in marginal and university-based seats.

All of this should be linked with the parties' response to changing trends - contrast, for example, Thatcher's successful courting of C2 voters in 1979, 1983 and 1987, with the Conservatives' disastrous campaigns of 1997, 2001 and 2005, all based on 'dog whistle' issues such as immigration and Europe, and often cementing an image among voters that the party was out of touch, and indeed 'nasty' and abrasive. Then you could look at Labour's 'suicide note' socialist manifesto of 1983 compared with the successful transition to 'New Labour' under Blair, which placed the party squarely in the 'centre ground' and was designed to reaasure 'Middle England'.

In addition to discussing factors you mention (age, gender, ethnicity) you should also look at what is a fairly new phenomenon in UK politics - the image of the party leader in determining voting behaviour. Callaghan was far more popular than Thatcher in 1979, yet still lost the election, but this could not happen today. It partly explains why Kinnock lost to Major in 1992, since polls revealed that most voters, while sympathetic to Labour, did not view Kinnock as a prime minister. Similarly, neither Hague (2001) nor Howard (2005) compared favourably with Blair.

Finally, of course, there is declining turnout, which partly reflects the view that all parties are much the same/break their promises, partly reflects the fact that recent elections have been seen as a foregone conclusion, and partly reflects the growing appeal of single-issue politics, and thus pressure groups, as an alternative means of political participation.

I hope this is helpful - happy to look at a final draft of your essay.

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