floating voter

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A voter who does not vote consistently for one or other of the political parties but ‘floats’ between them. When, in the 1930s, research began on voting behaviour, it was found that large blocks of voters remained wedded to particular parties for election after election on the basis of their social group memberships, and that relatively few switched their vote. But these few ‘floating voters’, it was thought, corresponded to an ideal type of democratic voter in so far as they were informed and open‐minded in making their choices. Such voters were widely considered by politicians and political analysts to hold the balance between the ‘blocks’ of committed partisans, and their support was seen as the key to political power. Subsequent research suggested that habitual ‘floaters’ were, in fact, less involved and informed about issues than others, and more inclined to vote on whimsical grounds. The extent to which there are distinct groups of floaters and loyalists, as opposed to various degrees of loyalty, is also debatable (see electoral volatility).

Stan Taylor


Subjects: Politics.

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