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Political Choice MattersExplaining the Strength of Class and Religious Cleavages in Cross-National Perspective$
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Geoffrey Evans and Nan Dirk de Graaf

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199663996

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199663996.001.0001

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Ideological Convergence and the Decline of Class Voting in Britain

Ideological Convergence and the Decline of Class Voting in Britain

(p.86) (p.87) 4 Ideological Convergence and the Decline of Class Voting in Britain
Political Choice Matters

Geoffrey Evans

James Tilley

Oxford University Press

In this chapter we examine why the link between class position and vote has declined so precipitously in Britain in recent decades. In contrast to an emphasis on increasing class heterogeneity favoured by many commentators we argue that the declining size of the working class has led to a strategic move to the centre by the Labour party, which has resulted in a blurring in the ideological distinctiveness of the choices offered to voters. As a result voters’ class-based, left-right values have become less relevant to their political choices and the link between class position and party preference has weakened. These arguments are tested using data covering a period of almost 50 years. After showing that party ideological convergence rather than increasing class heterogeneity accounts for the decline in class voting, we proceed to demonstrate that the parties’ centrist convergence weakens class voting through its effects on the political relevance of voters’ left-right values.

Keywords:   class voting, british politics, ideological convergence, left-right values

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