Consider the Extent to Which Short Term Factors Are Now Far More Important Than Long Term Factors in Shaping Voting Behaviour
“Consider the extent to which short term factors are now far more important than long term factors in shaping voter behaviour” Both short and long term factors unarguably play a crucial role in the voting behaviour of the electorate. However there is evidence to suggest that during the last decade the effect of long term factors has diminished considerably while the influence of short term factors has increased. By examining and deconstructing various long and short term factors we can examine their influence on voting behaviour in modern society.
The ‘electorate’ are those who are eligible to vote, and many factors can influence their vote. Primacy, also known as long-term, factors are those that have a long term influence on the way in which somebody votes, for example the social class in which that person belongs to. Recency, also referred to as short-term, factors are those which have a short-term influence and affect voting most prominently during the lead up to an election.
In the last few decades many long-term factors have become less important due to partisan and social de-alignment, whilst the short-term factors have been ever more emphasised and prominent. The period of 1945-1970 was seen as an era of electoral stability, partially due to the stability of the voting patterns and strong party identification. Therefore the ‘party identification’ model was supported by this period as partisan alignment, which is the long term manifestation of beliefs and loyalties, was a prominent factor in determining the way the electorate voted.
This was supported by Punnet in 1971 when he noted that “for most people voting behaviour is habitual and ingrained”. This is supported further by the dominance of the two main parties; Labour and Conservative whom gained on average 90% of the vote in the general elections. The sociological theory was identifiable in this period, which supported the idea of class alignment, as people had a strong feeling of association with their social class and the corresponding political party.
As Pulzer stated in 1967 “the middle class had a tendency to vote Conservative and the working class had a tendency to vote Labour”. Although, short term factors such as the election campaign also had significance as the elections were won by winning over the “floating voters” in important constituencies. These are all long-term factors that seemed to shape voting behaviour extensively, however since this period their dominance has been reversed.