Study Notes

Rational Choice Model

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

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

The rational choice model recognises that most voters are not strong identifiers and have no real connection with the political parties. They are essentially unaligned and consequently, as Ivor Crewe once remarked, “votes are up for grabs”.

Voters then decide how to vote on the basis of a series of judgements made about several relevant factors. So, voting behaviour is influenced by a combination of the party’s track record, election manifesto, the party leaders and key party players. This means that voters make a decision not based on class, age, ethnicity or gender or party identification but on who will benefit them and their families

It is worth noting here that different issues matter to different people at different times of their lives at different elections. For example, it could be the NHS is the most important issue if you have an elderly parent or young child or immigration is the most important issue if you are affected by it negatively or positively.

In fact, the political scientists Butler and Stokes identified what makes an issue salient, which means what makes anissue something that will actually affect a vote. They identified four conditions – which were that voters must be aware of issue, voters must have an opinion on an issue, voters must detect a difference between parties on the issue, and voters must actually convert their preference into actually voting for the party whose views on the issues approximate to their own.

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