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To what extent do recent elections in the UK and the USA support the dealignment thesis?

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Introduction

To what extent do recent elections in the UK and the USA support the dealignment thesis? In order to answer this question, key terms in it need to be defined, explained and explored. In this essay, I am going to be answering three questions, which, will point, toward a final conclusion. Firstly, we will need to discover the source of the dealignment thesis, what are its characteristics and what are its implications. Secondly, I am going to have to investigate, whether, either, the UK or the USA, in recent elections, bear any characteristics of the dealignment thesis. Thirdly, I am going to conclude whether recent elections in Britain and America support the dealignment thesis. It is my belief that although we can find characteristics of the dealignment theory, elections are too complex and exclusive events to assign one label to them. Indeed, I believe there are even more important factors that affect election results. Walter Dean Burnham, an American political scientist, first put the dealignment thesis forward in his discussion of 'electoral desegregation', in 1970. Two years later Wallenberg was to describe they're as being a "dealignment in American politics", it was this expression that was to become more commonly used. The dealignment thesis, put simply, is the concept that, citizens instead of shifting allegiances from one party to another, have in fact dropped any allegiance at all. Voters are now very susceptible to election-to-election appeals (S. Maisel, 2001: 57). The electorate now, its is argued have "weaker less cumulative allegiances" (I. ...read more.

Middle

"Voters were conflicted over basic ideology." (G. Pomper et al., 2001: 74) in America with the mass media playing a vital role within the election ideology has to be shorter and sharper. There is less 'air time' to project an ideology to the entire public. This leads to a focus on personality and more precisely what the candidate appears to stand for while not being explicit. In 2004 US Election a Republican television advert simply carried the message "I'm George W. Bush and I approve this message." There is less to vote for in terms of policy substance but in the projection of what a candidate can do. The 1997 election in Britain saw the very clear projection of image rather than ideology. Tony Blair stood depicted as the young face of New Labour. He was shown as being able to invigorate the country after the old and stuffy ways of Major, Hird and Howard. I think this has been a major determinate for voters turning away from ideological voting, as there is less focus on what a party stands for more what the candidates represent. Indeed Al Gore was heavily criticised in 2000 for focusing too much on policy and as consequence confusing the electorate. Thus voters are very susceptible to election packaging of candidates. I have, in my opinion, shown, how, in both UK and USA there is evidence that supports the dealignment thesis. ...read more.

Conclusion

This has ensured that parties in the UK and USA have been pushed to centrist polices. Its effects have ensured less of a stark choice for the electorate. It has become so difficult to choose between parties that are seemingly offering very similar things, that it's reduced to a popularity contest between the front-runners. The ease of access for voters to information about the public and private life of government has given us twenty-four hour scrutiny of government. We know more about politics today than we ever have. Its net result is that on Election Day we have more information and tools with which to make our choices about who will govern us. Paradoxically this has meant that the choices we make are more confused than ever. In many ways we have so much information at our disposal that we can't make real decisions, so it comes down to those few seconds in the polling booth. Dealignment, undoubtedly, is evident in recent elections in the UK and USA. In answering the question, to what extent the dealignment thesis is supported by recent elections, my answer is, inconclusive. Certainly, recent elections uphold the key themes of the dealignment thesis. However this ignores glaring short-term factors that change seemingly obvious voters of a certain party to the opposition. It does; underline the long-term changes that society in both countries has undergone. Voting has blurred on traditional analytical lines of interpretation, though it has conformed around new ones. Recent elections are increasingly influenced by short-term factors. Dealignment fails to accurately interpret these factors into election data that represent events independent from the last. ...read more.

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