Pol 1 Participation and Voting Behaviour definitions

  • Created by: Charlotte
  • Created on: 27-12-12 16:44


  •   'People Power' - Greek 'demokratia' of both 'demos' meaning the people, and 'kratos' meaning power. Literally people power.
  •   often best to compare against oppressive ruler ships such as authoritarian, totalitarian, monarchy, aristocracy, oligarchy and dictatorship
  •      "Government of the people, by the people, for the people" - Abraham Lincoln
  •   "No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time" - Winston Churchill
  •     "Were there a people of gods, their government would be democratic. So perfect a government (i.e. democracy) is not for men." - Jean-Jacques Rousseau (the Social Contract 1762)
  •   "It is against the natural order for the many to govern and the few to be governed" - Jean-Jacques Rousseau (the Social Contract 1762)
  •     "But one factor of liberty is to govern and be governed in turn; for the popular principle of justice is to have equality according to number, not worth ... And one is for a man to live as he likes; for they say that this is the function of liberty, inasmuch as to live not as one likes is the life of a man that is a slave." - Aristotle
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A system of government that encourages participation and allows for free and fair competition between competing interests. Meaning that there will be numerous access points and no single group will be able to exclude any other from the political process.

Some argue that the UK is Elitist as oppose to Pluralist. This is because of the domination of those who have a higher social class, have a particular educational background and have important contacts are those that dominate Westminster.

“We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both.” - Louis D. Brandeis

Robert A Dahl - Polyarchies being a theoretical form of a democracy but have to meet the criteria of...

  • effective participation, voting equality, inclusiveness, enlightened understanding and control of the agenda
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Political Participation Context

Political participation can largely be influenced by the prevailing plitical culture. Political culture (according to Lynton Robins) consists of "the opinions, attitudes and beliefs which shape political behaviour. A country's political culture consists of the whole citizenry's collective attitudes to the political system and their role in it"

Homogeneity - the view that people within a counrty have smilar views and values which are stronger than their differences. The UK isarguably less homogenious than it used to be i.e. due to multiculturalism and the desire for certain people's independance from the UK.

Consensus - Where citizens accept the basic rules by which to abide by i.e. tolerance and pragmatism, peaceful negotiation and compromise. this was seen in greater quantity in the relatively post war era however is less notable today which can be seen in the rise of single issue campaigns and direct action.

Deference - people defer to an elite as a natural willingess to accept an ingrained class-based inequality. In the past the power of the ruling eite was mysterious and secretive, in modern times many have been exposed and as a result these figures have declined significantly.  

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Forms of Participation

Electoral Participation - Those who are registered to vote in a given election are referred to collectively as the electorate. The Representation of the People Act (1969) allowed those 18 and over to vote. In 1831 only 5% of over 18's could vote, after 1969 this changed to 99%. Voters are legally required to register to vote meaning about 95% of the UK voting age population can vote.

Turnout  - Turnout is a percentage of how many registered voters actually vote. 1950 turnout = 83.9%, 1966 = 75.8%, 1970 = 72%, 2001 = 59.4%, 2005 = 61.4%, 2010 = 65.1%. Low turnout reduces the legitimacy of the governments' mandate.

Low turnout masks huge regional variations e.g. in 2001 the highest turnout was 77.3% in East Renfrewshire compared to the lowest t 44.3% in Manchester Central. Differential turnout refers to the way in which the national turnout figure often obscures significant regional variations. This may because of how safe a seat is, whether people think their vote will count/ the electoral system in operation, local or national issues causing controversy, media attention. In 2001 turnout may have been low in most areas as nationally it was widely believed that Labour had already won due to a lack of real choice between the major parties.

Voting varies in accordance with age, gender, ethnicity and social class. E.g. in 2010 76% of those over 65 voted whereas only 44% of those aged between 18 - 24 voted.

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Why is turnout so low?

Intelligent voters - voters are more likely to turn out to vote when they can see the importance of the government

Disaffected or apathetic voters - many voters have come to believe that the elections are irrelevant and that all the parties are the same and so choose not to vote.

Media-driven voters - some of the electorate have very little access to the world of politics, except that which is presented through the media. Many local and low key elections do not carry the same sort of attention as national ones and so people only vote when the media bring their attention to it.

Hapathy - being when others are perfectly happy with the status quo or are accepting of either outcomes of the election. In 2005 the Electoral Commission concluded that 29% of those who said they were 'satisfied with democracy' did not vote in the 2005 general election whereas 59% of those who said they were 'dissatisfied with democracy' still turned out.  

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Non-Electoral Participation

Other non-electoral participation methods include:

-Canvassing, leafleting, organising fundraising evets, staffing campaigning offices,being a member of a political party, engaging in pressure group activity. Most recently, one of the easiest and most common ways to participate is to sign an epetition.
Statistics of comparison from 1984 - 2000
Voted in general a general election: 1984=83%, 2000=72%
Signed a petition: 1984=63%, 2000=42%
Contacted a public official: 1984=25%, 2000=25%
Boycotted products for ethical reasons: 1984=4%,2000=31%
Attended a political meeting: 1984=9% 2000=6%
Attended an illegal protest: 1984=1%, 2000=2%
Equally party membership has heavily decreased
Conservative party had 2.9million members in 1951, 1.2 million in 1983, 400,000 in 1997 and 250,000 in 2008
Labour party had 876,000 members in 1951, 295,000 in 1983, 405,000 in 1997 and 166,000 in 2008
The Liberal Democrats  (SDP & Liberal Alliance) had 150,000 in 1983, 87,000 in 1997 and 60,000 in 2008
"It's not about apathy...while voting is waning, other forms of political expression are on the rise" - Noreena Hertz 2001, The Independant

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Gender and Voting

The gender gap = refers to what were once established differences between the voting habits of male and female voters in the UK
"There is overwhelming evidence that women are more conservatively inclined than men" Pulzer in 1967
Snce 1979 the gender gap between men and women has been closing. This is most probably to do with the changes in equality legislation and the effect that has had on the role of both men and women.

 In the 2010 election 31% of women voted Labour in comparison to only 28% of men voted in the same way.  
In the same election  38% of men and 36% of women voted Conservative.
In the 2005 general election 32%of omen voted conservative, compared to 34% of men who also voted conservative. 38% of women voted labour and 34% of men voted labour.
1997 election (elected Labour Tony Blair) saw 32% of women vote conservative and 31% of men vote the same way. 42% of women voted labour as did 45% of men.
1979 (the election in which Conservative Margaret Thatcher was elected) had 47% of women and 43% of men vote Conservative. 35 % of women voted Labour as well as 40% of me. 

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Class and Voting

Social class generally refers to a group of individuals who share a common position within society. The main groups are often defined as:
A= higher professional, managerial, administrative
B= intermediate professional, managerial, administrative
C1= supervisory, clerical, other non-manual
C2= skilled manual
D= semi-skilled and unskilled manual
E= residual, casual workers, people reliant on state benefits
"class is the basis of British party politics; all else is embellishment an detail" - 1960s Pulzer
Between the 1950s and 1960s there was a strong case of partisan alignment in correspondence with class. The middle class were largely Conservative and the working class aligned themselves mainly to Labour. Factors that have changed this for today's society include, the decline of traditional heavy and manufacturing industries, the rise of the service sector and general changes in attitudes to class boundaries.

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Old Sir


A useful outline of definitions within the context of voter participation in the UK . Students should ensure that they also have a good understanding of voting systems and criticisms of them. As ever, both areas require a knowledge of case studies in order to address assessment objective 2, (evaluation and analysis).

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