Is Social Class Still A Powerful Influence On Voting Behaviour? British Politics

2368 words - 10 pages

In the British polity, the two main political parties have historically represented a social class. 'Class is the basis of British party politics; all else is embellishment and detail' (Pulzer, 1967). Labour were seen as the party of the working class, whilst the Conservative party were seen to represent the middle class. There has been a great deal of speculation as to whether this still holds to be true with increasing numbers of the electorate becoming 'class defectors'. Primacy approaches advocating social class to be one of the most fundamental factors in voting behaviour have come into conflict with advocates of the recency approach which places a greater weight on public perception of ...view middle of the document...

The Conservative party was known as the party of homeowners, the middle class. They have however attempted to appeal across class boundaries attempting to court support from all aspects of society. Mainly because to achieve electoral success the Conservative party would be required to attract more votes than the middle and upper classes could provide to them. In 1950, one third of the working class voted for the Conservatives. Class defectors have intrigued political commentators for many years, deference meant that many working class Conservatives believed that the party was more able to run the country as they were their social superiors and they had the experience of many years of running the country. Another reason for working class supporters of the Conservative party in the 1950s was the Anglican Church, and its links to the party. Also the culture of work in the armed forces meant that many members of the military would be inclined to vote Conservative regardless of class. The final reason put forward for the appearance of working class Conservatives is patriotism, the Conservative party was seen as the party that would best protect the interests of the country.Unlike the Conservative and Labour parties, the Liberal party didn't really have a core vote, in the 1950s the Liberal vote came from older members of society who had always voted for the Liberal party and didn't want the Conservatives in office. In regional terms the Liberal party had always received support from Celtic areas like Wales and Scotland. The Liberal/Conservative pact not to run against each other in marginal constituencies to ensure that the vote wasn't split and Labour didn't win the seat meant that the arrangement gained the Liberal party extra representation in Parliament.In more recent years the electorate has become 'dealigned', this occurs when voters from a particular social class background no longer support the party that claims to represent the members of that social class. 'Class appears to explain much less about variation in political behaviour and today political scientists talk of "class dealignment" having taken place' (Coxall & Robins, 1998). An example of this was during the 1980s, Thatcher was able to obtain support from the working class through initiatives such as the 'Right to Buy' scheme which allowed council tenants the chance to buy their homes and the privatisation of national industry which allowed the working class the opportunity to buy shares and as such own part of the means of production. These were very popular policies with working class voters, and gave Thatcher the needed support to get re-elected. In effect the policies transported working class families into the middle class, as they now owned their home, and through privatisation they could also own part of the means of production. This is one of the primary reasons for the extension of the middle class, along with increased levels of education and more opportunity for people...

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