Tactical Voting

First used on a large scale in 1997, tactical voting occurs when two parties are sufficiently close to one another in policy and ideological terms for their supporters to be willing to vote for the ‘other’ party in order to keep their ‘least preferred’ party out of power. In 1997 and 2001, tactical voting favoured Labour and the Liberal Democrats and damaged the Conservatives. However, more complex patterns of tactical voting appeared to have taken place in 2005 and 2010. Divisions between Labour and the Liberal Democrats over the Iraq War may have meant that – in those elections – fewer Liberal Democrat supporters were willing to ‘lend’ their vote to Labour, while former Labour supporters disaffected by the war were happy to switch their vote to the Liberal Democrats.