‘Voting behavior’ is the Psychological way of saying ‘how people decide to vote in elections. Although voting is an individual act, it does not take place in isolation. Votes are influenced by a host of factors. These factors can be put in to two main groups. There are sociological factors which is called long-term factors looking at how people vote. Also political factors which is called short-term factors which focuses on the way people vote in general elections. psephologists have discovered various of theories to explain the factors that influence voting behavior in general elections. There are evidence which shows fewer people identify with a stronger party compare to 40 years ago. Elections are becoming more volatile. The 1997 General Election was apolitical Earthquake, which swigged of over 10 percent from Conservative to Labour.
Class de-alignment plays a significant importance in voting behavior. Class de-alignment have long been the most significant influence on voting behavior in Britain. Historically, Labour always been a working-class party and Conservative was richer and middle-class party. A weakening relationship between social class and party support has been evident for some years now. The evidence supporting the class de-alignment thesis may be seen in the fall of the majority voting for their natural class. In their classic study Butler and Stokes (1974) showed that between 1945-1970 Conservative regularly gained four-fifth of middle-class vote and Labour three-fifth of working-class vote. After 1970s these margins fell to Conservative three- fifth and Labour one-half. Less than half of the people voted with their party-class compare to second period. Political scientists such as (Crew 1977) have argued that the link between occupational class and party preference at election times has diminished. It is also linked to changes in social class itself. People are now less easily identifiable in class terms. According to Heath (1985) there was no evidence that there had been a fall in working-class loyalty to the Labour party. Rather, the overall decline in the Labour vote reflected a reduction of the size of the working-class as a whole. However, Curtice (1997) rejected Heath’s study and claimed that survey indicates that increase in Labour’s support were fairly evenly spread across the different classes. He stated “the rise in Labour’s support compared with 1992 was more or less the same in each social grade. The differences between the social grades were largely the same in 1997 as in 1992. Rather than being accompanied by the emergence of some long-lost relationship between class and vote, Labour’s 1997 victory appears to have done little to disturb the relationship between class and vote”.
Ethnicity is seen as a factor in voting behavior. This is largely because ethnic minorities account for only 5% of votes. However, even among the Blacks and Asians in the U.K’s, there is an emerging pattern. The 1997 election demonstrated that 70% of Asians and 86% of Blacks voted for Labour compared to the 25% of Asians and 85% of Blacks who voted for the Conservatives. A reason behind this could be that a large number of ethnic minorities are in low paid jobs which back the reasons to why their needs would suit Labour’s political policies. With regard to age differences in voting, Labour has done particularly well among voters the age of 30, 28 percent lead over the Conservatives in 1945 and 16 percent lead in 1974. Whereas, Conservatives has done well among the middle age (50-65) leading 18 percent in 1950 and 23 percent in 1974. It has been traditionally argued that women were more likely than men to vote Conservative and less likely than men to vote Labour.
Party identification or (partisan alignment) party identification is clearly linked with some of the long-term factors connected with voting behavior. People in particular social class will be aligned to the political party which they identify as being the one which has the interests of their class at heart. In recent decades we have seen clear evidence of partisan de-alignments – this means that fewer voters are “strongly attached” to a political party – the emotional bond of loyalty between voter and their party is in decline implying that the electorate is becoming more volatile in its voting behaviour and more likely to adopt a judgemental approach before casting a vote.
Issues and values it seems altogether that voters should look at issues and values of the political parties they are voting for. Over the last 15 years political issues has clearly grown. For example, in 1992 the Conservatives were seen to be the strongest party due to their involvement in defense, taxation, prices and inflation issues, ultimately this shows why they won the election. However, it is evident that in 1997 Labour maintained the highest success rate because their policies were based on the NHS, unemployment, education, taxation and relations with Europe which resulted in Labour gaining power. Therefore, the evidence suggest that there is a significant link between party policies and voting behavior.
Party leader one thing which will influence voters when it comes to vote is the personality of the person who stands for election. There are two aspects of this, first, the personality of the party leader may count as one of the policy issues on which the consumer-voter bases his/her vote at a general elections. People want their country run by someone who is honest, reliable, clever, eloquent, strong and also good at talking to others. Wilson remained more popular than Heath in 1970, but still lost. Callaghan was preferred to Thatcher as prime minister by the margin of 44 percent to 33 percent in 1979, but it was the Conservatives led by Thatcher that decisively won the election. In 1992 Major was perceived to be better than Kinnock and won, while in 1997 Major was perceived to as worse than Blair and lost. This is the evidence to say that this factor in voting behaviour has grown in recent years with the increased media focus on party leaders and the growth of presidentialism. (Leach 2006).
Party image an image may in some ways be very close to old-fashioned ideology, repackaged for the modern world. The image will consist of a sense of what the party stand for, or which principle lie behind what it aims to achieve in power. Labour was successful under Tony Blair in putting across a clear image. It became ‘ New Labour’ modern and young. It was sober and sensible in economic terms, but also caring and compassionate on the social front. In 1997 and 2001 Conservatives could not shake off a negative image, old fashioned, faintly bigoted, sleazy and obsessive. In 2005 Conservatives were beginning to change their image partly because Labour was developing some of these traits itself. (Holmes 2008)