Did Labour's landslide victory in 1997 mark a critical watershed in British party politics? Did the radical break with 18 years of Conservative rule reflect a fundamental change in the social and ideological basis of British voting behaviour? Critical Elections brings together leading scholars of parties, elections and voting behaviour to provide the first systematic overview of long-term change in British electoral politics.

Europe: A New Electoral Cleavage?

Europe: A new electoral cleavage?

A fundamental characteristic of a critical election is the occurrence of a change in the basis of party support and, by implication, party competition. Two conditions need to be present for the emergence of such a new dimension to electoral politics. First, new issues need to emerge that political entrepreneurs might seize on to help boost an electorally threatened position. These issues should be highly salient ‘hot button’ issues at the top of the political agenda which divide the public in fundamental ways and which polarize parties. In other words they should meet the requirements of Butler and Stokes’ (1974) classic specification of the requirements for issue voting, viz. an issue has to be salient, divisive ...

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