In the News

Can Sunak lead the Tories to election victory?

Mike McCartney

4th November 2022

Expert John Curtice gives his view


We know that historically election outcomes were dictated by the twin anchors of class and party alignment.

Indeed, Peter Pulzer once said: "Class is the basis of British party politics; all else is embellishment and detail." (1967). The strongest social influence on party choice, it was argued, was occupational class with the middle classes heavily Tory and working class voters pro-Labour

But this didn’t explain everything, because Britain was at that time mostly working class, and so Labour should been carried to election victory for the whole of that time. We know, of course, that that wasn't the case. Digging deeper, and influenced by psephologists on the other side of the Atlantic, Butler and Stokes found that large minorities didn't follow the class based pattern and their research revealed that parties mattered as well. According to their model, party identification refers to a sense of attachment to a party, a feeling of commitment. Voters are akin to a supporter, and not just someone who votes for it from time to time. So in some ways it is psycho-sociological. A bit like following a football team. AND upwards of 40% of voters described themselves as STRONG supporters. So short term factors may have had an influence but, the tendency was towards electoral stability rather than volatility.

These days we can look at rational choice to explain why elections are won or lost - even, as some believe, long term factors determine the way most people vote.

Voters in key marginals are likely to make their wind up on the basis of the 4Ps.

Past performance;

Party leaders;

Prospective voting;

Party unity.

John Curtice's views on the Sunak effect have been widely reported in this week's press.

For instance, in the Guardian:

"Asked if it was possible for the Conservatives to win the next election, Curtice said: “History suggests that it’s going to be extremely difficult, just simply because no government that has presided over a fiscal financial crisis has eventually survived – 1948, 1967, 1976, 1992. It’s not a happy litany of precedence.

“Voters don’t forget governments being forced to make U-turns by financial markets. So it’s going to be very, very difficult.”" Full story is here.

Watch the video below, and note Curtice's signifiant points in respect to your studies of voting behaviour.

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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