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Study Notes

Party identification model

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

The Party identification model looks to explain voting behaviour by understanding the split between ‘partisans’ and ‘floating voters’. Floating voters are those not committed to one party, who are undecided at the start of the campaign. Partisans are voters who are fiercely loyal to a particular party, and so will vote for them whatever happens. The party identification model therefore looks at ‘partisan alignment’ and ‘partisan de-partalignment’.

Partisan alignment was much greater in the post-war period. Most voters voted in accordance with social class position as differences in political socialisation encouraged them to identify with broad image of “natural class party”. 1945-1970 62% working class voted Labour, 66% middle class voted Conservative. Party and leadership policies had limited influence and few voters had ideologically coherent political beliefs.

It wasn’t a complete separation though. Some working class voted Conservative out of deference or embourgeoisement (moving into the middle class). Some middle class voted Labour to defend public sector services and employment. Age, gender, region, religion and ethnicity also had an influence although these have a social class dimension.Ultimately, then party identification is a long term sociological factor.

Yet the party identification model has become weaker. 29% of the electorate were partizans in 1974, but only 9% in 2005. The electorate is more volatile than in the past due to changes in class identification (particularly through policies of the 1980s), changes in the parties’ ideological positions, which brought the parties much closer together ideologically, the increasing importance of TV (which has to be unbiased) as the major source of news, and better education, which encourages critical thinking and the assessment of policies rather than a simple blind adherence to a party whatever their policies.

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