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Does Class Alignment Still Exist In British Politics?

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DOES CLASS ALIGNMENT STILL EXIST IN BRITISH POLITICS? INTRODUCTION My proposal for psephological research is to examine and evaluate the contemporary existence of class alignment in British politics. In its simplest form, this means that an individual's societal standing influences which political party they vote for. In the immediate post-war period, a person was more likely to vote for the Labour party if they were working-class, and for the Tories if they were middle-class. I shall first explain more accurately the concepts and ideas used within this field of research, and then examine the key debates and controversies involved, including and evaluating what contemporary areas of study and theory I have at my disposal. Subsequently, I shall discuss what questions I would like to see answered, the theory behind my proposal and explain in detail how I would collect my data, where I would collect it from, and what considerations I would have to take into effect. Finally, I will state what results I would expect to see, how I would explain these findings and how my investigation would further political understanding within this field. THE CONCEPT OF CLASS ALIGNMENT When surveys of British voters first began to be carried out in the 1950s and 1960s, it was found that the most important social influence upon party choice was occupational class. Peter Pulzer famously said in 1967 that, "class is the basis of British party politics; all else is embellishment and detail."1 Surveys regularly revealed that around two-thirds of the working class regularly supported Labour and upwards of four-fifths of the middle class regularly supported the Conservatives. This was very much the sociological model of politics, an orthodoxy that claims voting behaviour of individuals reflects the economic and social position of the group that they belong to. The approach was both external and objective, a move away from political philosophy and towards political science. ...read more.


2) Will you be voting at the upcoming General election, and if so, for which party? This question is the most likely to be open to abuse, as interviewees may well refuse to answer or will lie. In the run-up to the 1992 general election, pollsters believed the Labour party were destined to gain more votes than they did because people felt too ashamed to admit that they would be voting Conservative. At the present moment, this scenario is less likely, but a distinct possibility. 3) Did you vote at the last General election, and if so, for which party? This distinguishes between the volatile voter and the aligned voter. It is likely that a lot of interviewees will have voted differently at each election, especially with the present situation of a change in government in 1997. Thus, the next question is worded depending on the response to question three. 4) Do you regularly vote for this party? Do you feel strongly attached to it? or Which party do you regularly vote for? Do you feel strongly attached to any particular party? This should help to further distinguish between the floating voters and other more certain voters. If an interviewee has named two or more parties and says that they do not feel attached to any single party, then they are not party aligned. The strength of their alignment can be judged by their answer to the second part of the question. This data will establish the political leaning of the subject so that we can move onto discovering which social class they belong to. 5) What is your occupation? This question is qualitative as it will provoke numerous different responses, however when my results are collected, I will manipulate the data into a quantitative grouping. If an individual replies that they are a student, then it is necessary to ask what occupations their parents are in, in order to discover what social class they were brought up in. ...read more.


Further to that, it can be argued that is impossible to get inside a human and an inability to control for all the different factors makes it impossible for me to identify the true and accurate extent of class alignment. Indeed, perhaps the greatest threat to the accumulation of reliable knowledge comes from the failure to acknowledge bias and the unreliable claims to political neutrality. I accept this fact and admit that my findings will not constitute scientific law, as there are too many factors affecting voting behaviour alongside class, gender, age and area. Miller says that quantitative analysis can be, "too narrowly focused, like a search-light on a dark night that only illuminates a very small part of reality."9 While I may identify a correlation between class and voting preference, it is not necessarily a causation. Specific questions and a fixed range of answers do prevent respondents from truly speaking their mind and motivations and meanings are inevitably hidden, but nonetheless, I do believe that my research proposal covers the right ground and asks the right questions for a thorough analysis of contemporary British society. CONCLUSION The sociological approach to politics has been frequently challenged in contemporary psephological study, and class dealignment has inevitably taken effect. My research proposal would investigate the true nature of this demise in voting behaviour, collecting primary and quantitative data, using a radical sampling method of random selection. Having collected my specific and factual responses via telephone, I would collate my findings in ordinal categories and present the responses as a series of graphs. My analysis would subsequently seek to identify the univariate existence of class alignment, and whether there is a causation loop between the phenomenon and political partisanship. Further to this, I would introduce three independent variables of age, gender and area and analyse each one in a bivariate situation and finally an interactive capability. The intended result is to further understanding on voting behaviour without utilising qualitative analysis, and to discover whether there is still such a thing as class alignment in British politics. ...read more.

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