Partisan Dealignment

Partisan dealignment the process where individuals no longer identify themselves on a long-term basis by being associated with a certain political party.

Partisan dealignment is a decline in the extent to which people align themselves with a party by identifying with it. What is seen as the ‘normal’ support of parties falls, and a growing number of electors become ‘floating’ voters. The main consequence of partisan dealignment has been greater electoral volatility. This has been reflected in increased uncertainty about electoral outcomes, as ‘swings’ from one party to another become larger and, perhaps, in the rise of new parties or the decline of old ones. A variety of explanations have been offered for partisan dealignment:

• Increased education. The expansion of education in recent decades has encouraged voters to question traditional, party-based loyalties, and perhaps to take policies and issues more seriously

. • Impact of the media. Voters have access to wider sources of political information, particularly through television. They are therefore less dependent on party-supporting newspapers.

• Ideological change. Shifts in parties’ policies and ideological beliefs since the 1980s (often in response to class dealignment) have alienated some of their traditional supporters.

• Decline in ‘social capital’. As post-industrial societies have become more diverse, fluid and consumer-orientated, social attachments and loyalties of all kinds have weakened. see Bowling Alone

The main factor in partisanship today is a trend known as partisan dealignment. This means that a progressively smaller proportion of voters feel a strong attachment to one of the major parties. This decline in partisanship has a number of causes: ■ Class dealignment has occurred (see above). This means that the old strong links between the working class and Labour and the middle class and the Conservatives have weakened . As a result of class dealignment people have weaker party attachments.

■ The parties have tended to adopt centrist policies which can attract a wider range of voter support.

■ There is a growing support for smaller parties such as the Green Party and Scottish Nationalists.

■ There is a general widespread dissatisfaction with the performance of parties at Westminster (demonstrated by UKIP voting and low turnouts up to 2017) so people feel less attachment to them. Nevertheless there was something of a revival in support for the two main parties in 2017.

■ There has been a long-term decline in party membership, with the exception of a revival in Labour membership and activism in 2016–17, so there are fewer committed party supporters. Despite these trends, class remains a fairly good predictor of how an individual will vote