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Assess the claim that voters are rational consumers

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Introduction

Using information from Item A and elsewhere, assess the claim that voters are rational consumers Some sociologists argue that voters are rational consumers as they weigh up the costs and benefits of their vote and make an informed decision. However, as Item A describes, some criticise this and argue that voters do not know or care enough about individual party policies, still vote along class lines, and are therefore not rational consumers. From the end of the Second World War up to the 1970s sociologists argue that there was clear class alignment in voting behaviour, with the working class voting for the left wing Labour party and the middle classes voting Conservative. However, more recent studies have shown that class alignment is in decline and far more people vote on policy preference lines. Crewe argues that class alignment has decreased because the manual labour workforce has significantly declined over the last 30 years due to the closure of coal mines and steel foundries, meaning that many working class voters no longer identify with Labour policies. ...read more.

Middle

However, as Item A states, the rational voter thesis works on this basis that all voters are political literate, well informed and ?have clear knowledge about specific party policies?. Foucualt argues that power comes from knowledge ? therefore, in order to be a rational consumer clear knowledge is needed. However, some sociologists argue that many people are not informed or educated enough to be rational consumers. This argument is supported by the fact that, as it stands, politics is often overlooked on school?s curriculums ? meaning British school students may be undereducated in politics and even how to vote. President of the NASUWT teaching union, John Rimmer, argues that classes should be a compulsory requirement in the last two years of secondary school in order to combat the problem and create a more educated future electorate, leading to more voters becoming rational consumers. Due to this lack of education in schools people may take more notice of the media to inform them about political parties and policies. Item A highlights that ?the rational voter thesis assumes that the media faithfully reflect the truth?, but this is certainly not always the case. ...read more.

Conclusion

In 2010 39% of the AB class voted for Conservative, whilst 26% voted Labour. Furthermore, 40% of the lowest class voted Labour and 31% for Conservative. This shows that, whilst voters are clearly becoming more volatile, social class has not completely disappeared as a factor for influencing voter behaviour. In conclusion, therefore, whilst sociologists such as McKenzie and Silver argue that voters are rational consumers as they cast their vote after determining who will bring them the most gains whilst in power. This is reinforced by Crewe?s theory of class alignment being in decline. However, the clear counter argument to this is that obstructions, such as poor political education in schools and biased views in the media, mean the majority of the electorate are not rational consumers as it is difficult to get a truly objective perspective. Contrary to this entire debate, however, Item A argues that ?a large proportion of the electorate simply doesn?t care about politics?. Voter apathy has become an increasing problem in the UK, evidenced by the dip in voter turnout in recent years which hit an all time low of 59% in 2001. Therefore, some would argue that many people are no longer consumers, rational or otherwise, when it comes to politics and voting. ...read more.

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