Voting and Identity

Charles Pattie and Ron Johnston

in The Oxford Handbook of British Politics

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780199230952
Published online January 2010 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Politics & International Relations

Voting and Identity


This article traces that shift in academic understandings of British voting. Explanations of electoral alignment drew primarily on two different theoretical traditions: partisan identification and social cleavages. The origins of dealignment lie deep in the 1970s recession. Dealignment was a political earthquake waiting to happen. A striking generational shift in political attitudes had occurred among skilled manual workers. Political failure in the 1970s was one of the triggers of partisan dealignment. British electoral behaviour is now influenced much more by valence issues than by class and partisan identity. Identity and voting within the UK are both reported here. British voting studies have moved against the grain, leaving behind an interest in identity as other areas of politics embrace it. The cases of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) and nationalist voting notwithstanding, the new accepted wisdom in the field is that identity is now much less important than evaluations of government performance.

Keywords: British voting; British identity; electoral alignment; partisan dealignment; British electoral behaviour; Black and Minority Ethnic; nationalist

Article.  9356 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; UK Politics ; Political Behaviour

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