Many political scientists- such as Crewe and Franklin- have argued that since the 1970s there has been a decline in loyalty to political parties, especially the two main parties, meaning party dealignment is taking place.
Party dealignment is a decline in loyalty towards a political party, which is more evident in the Labour party and the Conservative party. We can see that support for the two main parties never fell below 87.5% between 1950 and 1970, which shows party alignment. However there has been a decline is support for the two main parties, shown in that the support for both parties combined hasn’t been higher than 74% since 1974. This could be because a lot of voters left the two ...view middle of the document...
Since this time political scientists, such as Crewe, have been arguing that the growth of ‘floating voters’ is due to class dealignment, which is a decline in class based voting. It can be argued that this decline is due to the embourgeoisement of the working class. This is where the working class are becoming wealthier and the class lines are blurring. These blurred lines lead to the working class taking on more middle class beliefs and values. Ivor Crew argued that there is an ‘old’ working class and a ‘new’ working class. The new working class were more likely to vote Conservative as their policies benefited them more, such as the right to buy council houses. In 1983 the Labour party presented a very left wing manifesto, more suited to the old working class and were defeated by the Conservative’s right wing policies. Class dealignment can also be seen in the 2010 election, as the Conservative party got 39% of the C2 vote, meaning around 4/10 of skilled manual workers voted Conservative, whereas only 2/10 voted for Labour.
As there is both class and party dealignment, there had been an increase in the floating vote. Floating voters have no loyalty to a particular party and will sway between parties between elections. As class isn’t behind the choice they make they will be influenced by other factors such as individual policies that are important to them. In the 80’s Himmelweit wrote that voters now act as political consumers, meaning they ‘shop around’ the different parties, deciding which party to vote for based on various issues, and then making a rational vote. This is known as consumer voting behaviour.
There are also other factors, known as primacy factors. This includes image of the party leader, which is known as Valance Theory and was put forward by David Denver. Other factors include the way the party is shown in the media, as the ‘Hypodermic Needle Theory’ suggests that the media ‘injects’ us with our political knowledge and as it will often be biased it will lead people to decide which party they vote for. Dr Green, wrote that sometimes issue based voting is more prevalent in some elections for example the Iraq war in 2005 and the economy in 2010. As there are a lot of factors, voters are able to make a more rational choice.
However, there are also primacy factors to take into account. This includes class, geography, age, gender and ethnicity.
Studies done by Heath, Jowell and Curtice challenge the theories of class dealignment. They argue that a ‘new’ working class developed...