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Study Notes

Class dealignment

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

Class dealignment describes how the social classes are voting in far fewer numbers for the political party they used to traditionally vote for.

There is no single definition of class, but market researchers and PSEPHOLOGISTS (those who examine voting behaviour) use the National Readership Survey (NRS).This system defines class according to occupation, which is relatively objective and often linked to other interesting factors such as education and income and housing:

Between 1945 and 1970, 66% of the middle class voted Conservative and 62% of the working class voted Labour. This is no longer so for a variety of reasons, the main ones being:

  1. The ‘traditional’ working class has declined. Few workers are employed in heavy industry (coal, steel, shipbuilding) with harsh working conditions and a strong trade union tradition.Over 50% of workers are now to be found in service industries, working in small units, in relatively clean conditions and with a weak trade union tradition.Many will be women and many will be part-time workers. This, increased standards of living, and increasing home ownership, has led many in class C2 to think of themselves as middle class.
  2. The middle classes have expanded as the role of government has increased.Many more are employed in modestly paid jobs (social workers, teachers, local government officers), many unionised, than in previous years. Although they still consider themselves middle class, their pay has declined relative to many skilled manual workers.
  3. To the extent that voters are voting along class lines – UKIP has taken many working class voters away from Labour – this is particularly true in the North of England. UKIP gained over 100 second places and, due to the prominence of issues like immigration, and what seemed to people in the north to be Labour’s increasingly middle class London elite – working class voters were moving towards UKIP.
  4. Working class voters in Scotland have moved to the SNP – mainly caused by the equating of nationalism with socialism during the referendum campaign and then the 2015 election campaign, many working class voters moved from Labour to the SNP, with devastating results for Labour north of the border.

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