Understanding Political Change. The British Voter 1964–1987 by Anthony Heath

By Anthony Heath

The primary situation of Understanding Political Change is to discover the social and political assets of electoral swap in Britain. From the Labour successes of the Sixties throughout the reemergence of the Liberals as a countrywide strength in 1974 and the increase and fall of the SDP to the capability emergence of the golf green social gathering within the Nineties, Dr Heath and his collaborators chart the always altering mold of British politics. Questions of the higher volatility of a extra subtle voters, of recent cleavages in society changing these in response to social category, of the Conservative government's planned and inadvertent interventions to form the rising social constitution, and of the impact which the political events were in a position to exert on public attitudes are all addressed with regards to facts from the election surveys performed after each one normal election considering 1964

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14 In general, these two different data sources give similar results. Some differences are naturally to be expected given the small number VOLATILITY 23 of people moving, for example, between Conservative and Labour, and the discrepancies are not particularly worrying. 15 As we can see, there have been some consistent patterns throughout the series of election studies. Thus there is least fluidity between Conservative and Labour; there is rather more fluidity between Conservative or Labour and the Liberals; and there is most fluidity between voting and non-voting.

Indeed, the main way in which the expanded analysis modifies our initial conclusions is to suggest that there were higher levels of issue voting towards the beginning of our period, in 1966 and 1970, than we had previously thought. It is the years in which the original model gave relatively THE RATIONAL ELECTORATE? 43 low indices of concentration that have been most affected, whereas those years when the index was already high benefit little from the extra questions. This analysis reinforces, therefore, our conclusion that voters were rational and sophisticated in the 1960s just as they are today, and that the changes since then are largely to be explained by the changes in the ideological positions of the parties.

Crewe was right to emphasize that a stable election outcome might be consistent with increasing turbulence in the electorate. Where commentators seem to have been in error is in supposing that turbulence (however defined) was tending to increase. The most that can be said is that overall volatility was slightly higher between 1983 and 1987 than it had been between, say, 1959 and 1964. But the difference is only modest; thus in the earlier of these two periods we found that 35% of eligibles changed their votes whereas in the later period this had increased to 37%.

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