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People, Politics and Participation - Participation and Voting Behaviour

Summary of the key points of AQA AS G&P Unit 1 Part 1

dianah baker

on 2 February 2016

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Transcript of People, Politics and Participation - Participation and Voting Behaviour

Participation and
Voting Behaviour

'Rule by the people', can come in different forms
Democracy as we think of it is 'Liberal Democracy'
Other systems (e.g. North Korea) may also call themselves 'democratic'
Political Culture = 'The ideas, beliefs and attitudes that shape political behaviour within a given area.'
- How citizens view the political system and their status and role in it.
UK Political Culture was
defined by:
HOMOGENEITY - sharing a common heritage and identity. 'Togetherness.'
consensus - accepting the 'rules of the game' such as tolerance, pragmatism, negotiation and compromise.
DEFERENCE - a willingness to defer to an 'elite' and accept a class-hierarchy.
What is Democracy?
Freedom of speech
Key rights and responsibilities
Wide right to vote
Free and fair elections
(right to petition and protest)
Citizens have direct input
In Western democracies,
typically through REFERENDUMS...
...but other examples exist e.g. Town Hall Meetings, New England, USA
Power and authority are placed in the hands of elected representatives
Once elected,
free to legislate independently
"Your representative owes you not his industry only,
but his judgement and he betrays you if he sacrifices it
to your opinion." Edmund Burke
1729-1797. Philosopher, political theorist and MP.
Representatives more educated and articulate than electorate
Representatives have access to research and information on which to base judgements
Independent representatives will ensure necessary but unpopular policies are implemented (e.g. taxation)
Independence ensures 'joined-up government', where policies are not disjointed and work poorly together
Long terms of office reduce the accountability of representatives
MPs toe the party line and don't represent constituents
People feel poorly represented leading to increased apathy and reduced participation
The risk of elitism with only a particular section of society being elected to parliament
also known as 'trustee' or 'Burkian'
Parliamentary Sovereignty:

Parliament is 'the supreme legal authority in the UK, which can create or end any law. Generally, the courts cannot overrule its legislation and no Parliament can pass laws that future Parliaments cannot change. '
Classic Example: Ancient Greece
Challenged by:
Multiculturalism and immigration
Scottish and Welsh nationalism
Decline of the Church of England
End of the Post-war consensus
Less deferential society (& media)
By the
1969 Representation of the People Act
the FRANCHISE was extended to almost all citizens aged 18 or over.
In the UK voters are legally required to register to vote, but not to vote itself.
Around 95% of the VAP were registered to vote before the 2005 election.
Levels of TURNOUT measure elctoral political participation.
Low turnout brings into question the government's legitimacy and strength of its mandate.
It is worth considering DIFFERENTIAL TURNOUT - how turnout varies geographically and according to factors such as age and social class.
Types of election also affect turnout.
Political Participation - Electoral
1831 -
5% of adults can vote
Reform Act 1832 - Adult males who rented propertied land of a certain value (1 in 7 males)
Reform Act 1867 - All male householders
Representation of the People Act 1884 - Amended the Reform Act of 1867 so that it would apply equally to the countryside; this brought the voting population to 5,500,000, although 40% of males were still disenfranchised, whilst women could not vote
Representation of the People Act 1918 - Property restrictions lifted for men, who could vote at 21; women's votes were given with property restrictions, and limited to those over 30 years old. This raised the electorate from 7.7 million to 21.4 million with women making up 40% of the electorate.
Representation of the People Act 1928 - Women's voting rights equal with men, (voting at 21 with no property restrictions)
Representation of the People Act 1969 - Those 18 and older -
99% of adults can vote
Source: Wikipedia
More on Franchise
Reasons for not being eligible to vote include being a member of the House of Lords or a criminal serving a custodial sentence.
For example, In 2005 there was a 23% point difference in turnout between the constituencies of Manchester Central and East Renfrewshire.
44% of 18-24 year olds voted in 2005 compared to 76% of over-65s
57% of those in DE social classes compared to 76% in AB.
General elections have the highest turnout in the UK with Local and European elections having some of the lowest, with nearly half the turnout.
*a 2006 independent inquiry
Political Participation - Non-electoral
The Totnes Primary, 2009
*a 2006 independent inquiry

Many people only consider turnout when discussing rates of political participation, but a more inclusive definition of political participation might include:
Canvassing and leafleting for a political party.
Organising election events and fundraising activities for political parties
Staffing campaign offices (being an 'official agent'[campaign manager] or part of the campaign team including counting agents and tellers)
Writing to or meeting elected representatives asking for advice or support on a specific issue, personal or otherwise.
Being a member or being involved with a political party - party memberships have fallen in recent years, and ther have been some attempts to increase party involvement, for example the Tory use of an 'open primary' in Totnes in 2009.
Being a member of a pressure group (i.e. paying the fee) -
Taking part in political protest or organised pressure group activity -
- as party memberships have fallen, involvement in pressure groups has increased.
About a quarter of the electorate turned out to elect a new Conservative candidate for the constituency of Totnes, Devon.

100 people had applied to stand for the position, and the local Conservative party had whittled the candidates down to 3.

Over 16,000 people then voted on who of the 3 should become the Conservative candidate.

Being an OPEN primary, voters did not have to be Conservative members/voters to take part.

A GP, Sarah Woolaston was elected, with approximately 8000 votes.
The electorate votes representatives into office at different levels of government.
The vast majority of adults in the UK have the FRANCHISE (the right to vote) and can exercise ELECTORAL POLITICAL PARTICIPATION.
There are also opportunities for citizens in the UK to participate in democracy through NON-ELECTORAL PARTICIPATION.
There have been recent questions about a 'participation/legitimacy' crisis in UK politics.

-The ability to do something or make something happen

Absolute Power - the unlimited ability to do as one wishes
Persuasive Power - the ability to pursuade others to follow a course of action
Legitimate Power
- where others have accepted an individual's rights to make decisions (e.g. via an election)
Coersive Power - pressing others into complying through laws and penalties

-The right to take a particular course of action

WEBER (1864-1920) defined 3 types:

Traditional authority - based on established traditions or customs
Charismatic authority - based on the characteristics of leaders
Legal-rational authority - granted by a formal process, such as an election
Is the UK a

a) it is PLURALIST. There is open competition for power between different groups and individuals.

b) it has a LIMITED SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT, where the power of ruler is limited by laws.

wide franchise

lack of fraud
Including those which limit the powers of government/leaders
Is there a UK participation/legitimacy crisis?

THE POWER INQUIRY AND REPORT (a 2006 independent inquiry):

Formal, electoral politics is in decline. Turnout is low, party membership is decreasing, elected representatives are held in VERY low esteem. People feel alienated from politicians and political institutions.


People are NOT apathetic. There is evidence that many citizens are engaged in community and charity work, and participation in pressure group politics (from signing petitions, to boycotts, to joining groups and engaging in protest action) is increasing.
Electoral participation is important.
There is a demonstrated link (Whiteley, 2009) between electoral participation and government effectiveness.
The nature of participation
in the political process

Political Participation in the UK
UK Political Cuture
Participation through
the ballot box

A wide range of factors affect voter turnout and create differential turnout
A similar range of factors affect voter behaviour more generally, for example who people vote for and why
Partisan/class alignment and dealignment
The influence of specific issues
How campaigns are run and reported
The images of parties and leaders
Gender, age, ethnicity and region
Who votes and how?
Alignment and Dealignment

Class and party
are similar and sometimes linked.
Traditionally, the middle classes supported the Conservatives and the working classes supported Labour ( this is '
During the 1960s, more working-class youngsters went to university and gained professional employment. They became more likely to describe themselves as 'lower-middle class.' (Class dealignment/
Party dealignment is when certain classes no longer vote for the party they have traditional ties with.
E.g. 1: working classes voting Conservative or possibly for a smaller party e.g. BNP (see 2006 Barking and Dagenham Local elections) because of
(historically), changing attitudes or particular issues.
E.g. 2: middle classes voting for Labour. This may happen if people grew up in working class homes but through education/employment 'become' middle class, or if through working in the public sector they become empathetic with the attitudes/ideology of the left.
Changes in attitude/social position (class dealignment)
Particular policies (Thatcher's 'right to buy')
Particular issues (immigration)
Economic instability (e.g. the credit crunch) may increase the Conservative vote, as people perceive the party to be more finacially prudent and astute.
Specific issues can lead voters to dealign - for example voting for single issue parties over matters such as immigration or EU membership (BNP,UKIP)
Poor reporting, or a negative campaign, where parties attack each other instead of putting forward their own ideas can lead to poor turnout.
The perception of parties and leaders can affect voting behaviour.
E.g. 1: The parties at the 2010 election were accused of negative campaigning. It was feared that this would lead to poor turnout. In the end, turnout was 65.1% - low but not as low as the previous 2 elections.
E.g. 2: The Tories are often discussed as trying not to be seen as 'the nasty party.' David Cameron felt this was important for them to gain votes in the 2010 election.
E.g. 3: Gordon Brown's personal polling before the 2010 election showed he was not well liked by the electorate. This was compounded when he was recorded referring to a female voter he met as a 'bigot'. His personal (lack of) appeal affected the Labour Party as a whole.
E.g. 4: Polling before the 2015 election showed the majority of the electorate considered Ed Miliband would make a poor PM, and that this was their primary reason for not voting for Labour.

AB Class 75%

Over 65 78%

White 68%

Homeowner: 77%

also: not single & religious

DE Class 57%

18-24 43%

Non-white 55%

Renter: 51%

also: single & non-religious
Voter Turnout 2015
NB: In the 2010 and 2015 elections, women and men turned out in similar proportions.
Over 55s are more likely to vote Conservative (40% vs 27% for under 55s)
The North (especially urban areas) is more likely (40-60% in the last 3 General Elections) to vote Labour than the South (20-30% in the last 3 GEs). This is associated with the
North-South Divide
Women have traditionally been thought to be more likely to vote Conservative and men Labour, but recently the picure has become more blurred.
Ethnic minorities are more likely to vote Labour than white voters (70% vs 43% in 1997 GE).
The North-South Divide

An imaginary divide through the Midlands, with the North seen as less wealthy, with lower wages and house prices, and more working class.
The Grey Vote

As the population ages (i.e. the average age is increasing), the importance of the Grey (traditionally Conservative) vote increases. Parties will need to seek to win older voters over.
Historically, women were less likely to work (& so be members of Labour-supporting Trade Unions).
Also, women live, on average, longer than men and so are more likely to be older, therefore Tory, voters.
Ethnic minorities have often found themselves disadvantaged by the status quo. They may choose to vote Labour as they see them as the party more likely to address inequalities.
Types of election - do voters value the institution involved?
Political apathy/disengagement - the POWER report* suggested voters increasingly felt elections make little difference and UK political parties are converging ideologically.
'Hapathy' - are people 'too content' to vote?
Relative Value - do people live in safe seats or marginal ones, where they feel their vote can effect change?
Type of electoral system - are people more inclined to vote in a PR system rather than first-past-the-post?
The role of the media - is the intense media covereage, stimulating people to vote?
What Affects Turnout?
*a 2006 independent inquiry
Voting Behaviour
The study of voting behaviour is called 'psephology'.
There are various models of voting behaviour.
There reflect different beliefs about the importance of different
of voting behaviour (long-term or short-term).
The models are NOT
mutually exclusive.
The Party Identification Model

People are politically socialised by their upbringing and education, leading to their alignment to one particular party. Voting becomes a manifestation of deep beliefs and loyalties (cf. dealignment).
The Sociological Model

Social factors, especially social class, influence how people vote. Put simply, the working classes vote Labour and the middle classes vote Conservative. Of course many voters deviate from this pattern.
The Rational Choice Model

A more modern theory. Voters make rational choices based on parties past performance, manifesto promises etc. The voter is a 'consumer' choosing what is best for him/her.
Dominant Ideology Model

The mass media, consciously or unconsciously provided biased or partial political coverage. This creates a dominant ideology (e.g. Welfare claimants are bad, cuts are needed, the NHS should be left alone) which influences voters (especially as party alignment is no longer strong).
Long Term Influences (Primacy)

Party identification and loyalty

Social Class

Other social factors (e.g: age, gender, region, occupation, ethnicity, religion)
Short Term Influences (Recency)

The economy

Personal qualities of leaders

The mass media

Style and effectiveness of campaigns

The events leading up to an election

Party images
Obviously, a poor economy (high inflation or unemployment, low growth/prospects etc) does not do the party in power any good if they call an election! Think of the 2010 General Election
Much has been made of the UK's move towards 'presidential-style' elections. Public perception of party leaders has become more important, with polling carried out about public attiudes to them.
The 1997 GE saw the Labour party push Tony Blair as dynamic and youthful compared to 'grey' John Major and in 2010 and 2015, the Conservatives focussed on public dislike for Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband.
The way the mass media represents parties can affect people's perceptions of the issues - they are the source of much of the public's understanding of political debates. In 1992, on election day the Sun front page headline was "
If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights
." The paper later claimed "
It's The Sun Wot Won It
The Winter of Discontent, destroyed Labour's chances of winning the 1979 GE.

The Falklands War boosted Margaret Thatcher's/Conservative prospects in 1983.

Multiple accusations of sleaze undermined Conservative chances of winning in 1997.

The Credit Crunch and Global Recession made Labour victory unlikely in 2010.
The winter of '78-'79 which saw widespread industrial and public sector strikes when the government tried to limit payrises. This led to countrywide chaos, with supplies undelivered, hospitals only treating emergencies, rubbish uncollected and the dead unburied (in Liverpool).
Party image can influence how people choose to vote.

Before the 1997 GE, Tony Blair spent a lot of time trying to dispell the notion of the Labour Party as the party of the working classes (the New Labour project).

Before the 2010 GE, the Conservatives made efforts to make it clear that they were 'no longer the nasty party'.
The Voter-Context Model

Voters are (also) influenced by context - e.g. the type of election, the constituency they live in or the aims of the voter. For example, voters may vote tactically, or abstain if they think their vote is 'worthless'.
60% of people read a morning paper
97% of homes have a TV
Over 50% of homes have internet access
Many newspapers 'declare' support for a particular party before an election
The charters of the BBC and ITV require that they are impartial
Even if a media outlet is not explicitly biased towards one party, use of language (or images) may be 'loaded.'
The Liberal Democrats (and minor parties) sometimes complain that thet suffer from neglect as only the two main parties are discussed.
Early media researchers believed the public absorbed the views presented by the media.
Post-war researchers thought people already held views and the media simply reinforced these.
Many writers now believe we are so media-exposed that the media must have some impact on our thinking.
Opinion polls (conducted by polling organisations, especially during election campaigns) and exit polls (asking people how they voted as they exit a polling station) can influence voter behaviour.
They may encourage higher turnout (especially if they indicate a close result) E.g. 2014 Scottish Referendum.
Possible bandwagon and/or underdog effects (encouraging people to vote for the leader or the runner up).
May encourage tactical voting (see Stephen Twigg's 1997 defeat of Michael Portillo in his 'safe' seat of Enfield).
The increase in political consultants and spin doctors in all parties indicates the important role they believe the media play.
'Managing the media' is considered central to how a party is perceived and so how popular it is.
A by-election is held in a constituency between elections to fill a seat that has become vacant.
This might be due to resignation, expulsion (sacking) or death of the current MP.
They are often used by voters to register a PROTEST VOTE against the party in power.
Alongside this, voters may be more inclined to vote TACTICALLY in order remove the incumbent.
Parties may lose by-elections dramatically, but still go on to win the next election.
Protest Votes and Tactical Votes
Protest voting
involves voters who would typically vote for the party in power, voting against them to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs.
It occurs in mid-term elections (between general elections), which is why losses in by-elections or local elections are not considered a clear sign of the liklihood of a party losing at the next General Election.
Tactical voting
is when voters vote for a canditate they might not normally, to keep/get another candidate out.
It can occur in any form of election.
The Barnsley Central by-election, March 2011
Called after the MP Eric Illsley stood down because of the expenses scandal.
The Lib Dems fell from 2nd place (at the May 2010 GE) to 6th place.
They secured so few votes, they lost their deposit.
This was
protest voting
by people disappointed at the Lib Dems record since coming to power as part of the coalition government.
The May 2010 General Election
Polls indicated a close result nationally, with the Conservatives unlikely to achieve a true majority.
This led to many calls encouraging people voting for
marginal seats
(where the difference in votes between the parties in first and second place are typically small) to vote
in order to secure a result in their constituencies that would be most likely to secure the result they wanted at national level.
For example, Labour voters were encouraged to vote Lib-Dem in the constituency of Wells, as it is a Conservative/Lib Dem marginal.
This led to the Lib Dems overturning a Conservative majority of 3000, by 800 votes.
The Labour vote fell by 4000 votes, suggesting Labour voters had indeed voted tactically.
Differential and Variable Turnout
Polls are not always what they seem...
For example, ICM (polling organisation) adjusts their raw polling results using a 'spiral of silence'.
They assign 50% of 'don't knows' to match the previous election results.
They do this to counteract what they call the "Shy Tory Effect" which saw pollsters under-predict the Conservative vote in 1992.
The 2015 election saw the majority of pollsters predict a hung parliament, not the eventual Conservative win.
Reviews suggested this was because:
a) Older people (more likely to vote Conservative) were under-polled as they were less likely to answer their phone or respond to internet polls.
b) Younger, politically active people (more likely to vote Labour) were over-polled as they were more willing to respond.
c) The effect of people over 75 being the most likely to vote and incredibly likely to vote Conservative was lost, as most polls lumped together all people over 65.
Polling organisations will use these findings to try to improve their future accuracy.
More on referendums here: https://prezi.com/rkfdnh_sklf4/electoral-systems/
There is open competition for power between different groups and individuals.
Full transcript