Voting behaviour can be interpreted in various different ways, but when adopted with the term at face value on a sociological level, there are many different reasons as to why people vote and what causes them to do so. The period from 1945-70 was the classic era of two-party dominance. Since the early seventies, Conservative and Labour power has remained virtually unaltered in Parliament, but their grip has loosened in local government, and the popular foundations of the two-party system have been eroded among voters. This provides a fresh and accessible perspective on theories of electoral change, placing developments in Britain within their broader comparative context and challenging many assumptions about trends in voting behavior.
The primacy approach focuses on the relatively stable characteristics of voting behavior, which are acquired through political socialization. This process involves the acquisition of political attitudes, values, and behaviors. According to the primacy approach, most people retain their party preference and voting habits from their initial political awareness. There is evidence to support this, as the Conservatives won consecutive elections from 1978 to 1997, with 49% of the votes. However, other factors such as occupation, immigration, and the health system can also influence a voter’s choice of party.
However, there are long-term factors that help to influence us, such as social class. The electoral choices of voters were initially influenced mainly by social-group identity, which, in turn, helped to forge partisan identification. However, during the 1960s and 1970s, the relationship between class and party weakened. The process of class dealignment meant that there was a reduction in Labour support from the working classes. Most people used to vote for their natural class” party, but this changed due to different parties introducing different policies to suit the needs of their intended audience.
Both the Conservative and Labour parties have suffered from party dealignment. In 1964, 48% of voters supported the Conservatives, and 51% of Labour voters identified very strongly” with their party. However, in 1992, traditionally Conservative voters had seen their party as the “party of home-ownership,” but the hardship many people experienced during the Major years as a result of high interest rates led to much support being switched to Labour. This shows a clear example of dealignment.
The Labour Party seemed to attract a new audience of voters, particularly council tenants. By appealing to Middle England, the Labour Party may have made it easier for voters who did not belong to the working class to vote for them. Labour has shown to be much stronger than the Conservative Party in the last 20 years, as they won back 7.9% of the working-class vote.
Some politicians claim that Britain is becoming a classless society where we are merging and coming together as one. This is clearly the embourgeoisement thesis. Capitalism has changed dramatically during the twentieth century. Many of those officially classified as middle class have low-paid jobs, indistinguishable from unskilled manual work. Today’s blue-collar and routine clerical workers are little different from manual workers. The universal franchise was initially limited to those over twenty-one, in the belief that the young are more likely to question established values and favor radical policies. Young people tend to abstain from voting as they are either apolitical or cannot see what difference the outcome will make in their everyday lives. However, there was a greater rise in the Labour vote in 1997 among the young.
This was probably due to the Labour Party appealing to the working class and Tony Blair’s sense of youth and optimism. In 1992, more young people voted Conservative than Labour, suggesting the effect of a generation socialized by unbroken Conservative rule. The increasing potential of older people’s votes was shown in 1997 as age concern produced glossy brochures to mobilize the elderly, emphasizing that 24% of the electorate had considerable voter power. It has been argued that property and wealth, as we grow older, lead to a more conservative outlook. Those aged 65 and over give more support towards the Conservative party.
Half of fewer than 45 voters were Labour. Generally, black people have been less inclined to register to vote than whites. However, those of Asian descent are more likely to vote than their white neighbors, while Afro-Caribbeans are less so. In both cases, the strong preference has been for Labour.
Many young Afro-Caribbeans generally do not vote.