This accessible textbook provides a comprehensive introduction and guide to theories of voting and electoral behaviour. By carefully presenting and explaining the major technical and methodological advances made in voting studies, the text serves to provide a complete review of the different approaches and techniques that have characterized this area of study from its origins to the present day. The book includes separate chapters on abstention and electoral competition, and employs a range of empirical examples from a number of countries. It concludes by looking at how voting studies might evolve in the future.

Social Structural Theories of Voting

Social structural theories of voting

Summary Box

  • The political sociology context
  • ‘Sociology of politics’ and ‘political sociology’
  • The origins of political cleavages
  • Measuring cleavages: the class example
  • Absolute and relative class voting
  • Dealignment and realignment
  • What does ‘social structure’ mean today?
  • Recent tests of structural voting
  • Party identification and social structure.


‘A cross on the ballot is an implicit statement of social identity.’ (Harrop and Miller, 1987: 173). If there is one view which characterises early voting studies, and continues to motivate much contemporary psephological research, this quote encapsulates it. As we discussed in Chapter 1, voting is certainly a unique activity in terms of the role it gives all enfranchised individuals in the political process, but at the same time it is also a remarkably ordinary activity in terms of ...

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