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Voting Behaviour at the 2010 General Election. Dr Justin Greaves University of Warwick. A good read . The British General Election of 2010 by Kavanagh and Cowley Limited literature - journal articles will take 18 months or so.

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voting behaviour at the 2010 general election

Voting Behaviour at the 2010 General Election

Dr Justin Greaves

University of Warwick

a good read
A good read ...
  • The British General Election of 2010 by Kavanagh and Cowley
  • Limited literature - journal articles will take 18 months or so

David Butler involved with the Nuffield series on general elections - 1945-2005

  • Co-inventor of the swingometer
  • Political Change in Britain’ (with Stokes)
the results
The results
  • Con: 36.1% (307 seats)
  • Lab: 29% (258 seats)
  • LD’s: 23% (57 seats)
  • Turnout: 65.1%

(* these are all UK figures – will get slightly different figures if exclude NI)

what is a swing
What is a ‘swing’?
  • Swing is a tool which helps explain how elections are won and lost
  • In simple terms it is a way of measuring how the public's support of political parties changes from one election to the next
the calculation
The calculation
  • Step 1. Add the rise in one party's share in the vote to the fall in the second party's share of the vote
  • Step 2. Divide your figure by two. The resulting figure is the swing
an example
An example
  • In the 2005 General Election the Labour Party had a lead of 3% over the Conservative Party
  • In 2010, the Conservatives had a 7% lead over Labour.
  • So the swing is 3 + 7/2


the tv debates
The TV debates
  • 2010 was the first election in the UK where there were TV debates between the three party leaders
too much celebrity
Too much celebrity?
  • Is it becoming too much like the X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent?
  • Leaders judged on how good they look on TV?
the lib dem surge
The Lib Dem surge
  • Surge after first debate
  • Did not translate into votes
  • Made up of younger people less likely to vote?
  • ‘Spiral of enthusiasm’
  • Did it ever exist?
some general points 1
Some general points (1)
  • Decline in two party system (party identification?)
  • Just 2/3rds of the electorate voted for the Conservative and Labour Parties (lowest than at any election since and including 1922)
some general points 2
Some general points (2)
  • Almost one voter in 10 (9.7%) in Great Britain voted for someone other than the three main parties
  • This was higher than in any other previous election
  • The previous record was set in 1918, when the figure was 8.8%
labour party
Labour Party
  • Labour’s share of the total vote was the second worst since 1918
  • Only the party’s performance in 1983 was worse
conservative party
Conservative Party
  • Vote share modest
  • 5th lowest in 24 elections since and including 1922
  • Never before has party achieved office (albeit on coalition) on such a low share of the vote
  • But still 7% ahead of Labour
disappointing turnout 1
Disappointing turnout (1)
  • Between 1922 and 1997 turnout had never been lower than 70%, before falling precipitately to just 59% in 2001 and 61% in 2005
disappointing turnout 2
Disappointing turnout (2)
  • ‘While the anticipated closeness of the election outcome might have helped bring some voters to the polls, it would appear that the British electorate can no longer be relied upon to vote simply out of duty or habit’ (Curtice et al)
the recession and voting
The recession and voting
  • ‘Those parts of the country that had suffered most from the recession were indeed the most likely to have lost faith in Labour’s ability to govern’ (Curtice et al)
ashcroft s millions
Ashcroft’s millions
  • ‘Even on a generous reading of the evidence the exercise headed by Lord Ashcroft had limited success at most in ensuring the Conservatives generally performed well in key Labour held marginal seats’ (Curtice et al)
  • Most successful in relatively deprived urban seats
  • Also performed well in seats which had experienced a relatively large increase in unemployment since 2005
green party
Green Party
  • Caroline Lucas – their first MP
  • But success an isolated one
  • Their overall share of the vote was down on 2005

Ipsos MORI: Analysis of Voters

  • Total sample = 10, 211 electors interviewed between 6 April – 6 May 2010
  • Weighted to final result of 2010 general election
election stats ipsos mori
Election stats: Ipsos MORI
  • Women less likely to vote Conservative than men – more likely to vote Labour and (esp) LD
  • Conservatives did better amongst the older age groups (65+ 44%)
  • Class still of some significance – interesting how LD’s do best amongst ABs and worst amonst DE’s
turnout ipsos mori
Turnout: Ipsos MORI
  • Turnout up in all age groups (from 2005)
  • It increases with age (18-24 44%, 65+ 76%)
  • Trend continues of young women being less politically engaged than men (18-24 men = 50%, 18-24 women 39%)
the sun
The Sun
  • Sun readers swung towards the Tories more than the readers of any other paper
  • In 2010, 43% of Sun readers voted Tory and 28% voted Labour.
  • Compared with 2005, that represented a 13.5% swing
the guardian
The Guardian
  • Guardian readers less likely to vote Lib Dem in 2010 than in 2005 – even though the paper endorsed the Lib Dems
  • 46% of Guardian readers backed Labour, 37% the Lib Dems (down four points since 2005)

Other Ipsos MORI polling throws up some interesting results

  • See
importance of leaders
Importance of leaders
  • For the first time leaders were as important as policies in determining how people voted
  • Would Labour have done better with a different leader?

If you had a total of ten points to allocate according to how important each of these was to you, how many points would you allocate to the leaders of the party you intend voting for, how many to its policies, and how many to the party as a whole?

  • Mean scores of 3.9 (leaders), 3.8 (policies) and 2.2 (party)

Cameron seen as the most capable PM

  • But quite a narrow lead (33% to 29%) over Brown
  • Clegg on 19%
the economy
The economy
  • No party had a clear lead on the economy
  • Con 29 %
  • Lab 26 %
  • LD’s 12%
who had the best policies
Who had the best policies?
  • The Conservative Party was seen as (marginally) having the best policies overall
  • Con: 29%
  • Lab: 27%
  • LD: 16%
most important issues
Most important issues
  • The three most important issues were:
  • The economy
  • Health care
  • Education
who was ahead
Who was ahead?
  • The Conservatives were ahead on asylum/immigration, crime, defence and reforming MP’s expenses
  • Labour were ahead on health, unemployment, benefits and climate change

Does all this data help explain why the Conservatives ended up ahead - but without a majority?

  • A fit with ‘rational choice’ models of voting?
finally incumbency
Finally: incumbency
  • Popular MPs hold on against the trend (eg: Vernon Coaker)
  • ‘Asteroids’ hit less well respected MPs
  • Those caught up in expenses scandal hit worst
some useful sources
Some useful sources
  • ESRC British election study

  • Ipsos-Mori

(In particular -


Thank you for listening

  • You can find out more about my teaching and research at