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Policy Alienation, Social Alienation and Working-Class Abstention in Britain, 1964–2010

  • Oliver Heath
Abstract

This article presents an examination of class-based inequalities in turnout at British elections. These inequalities have substantially grown, and the class divide in participation has become greater than the class divide in vote choice between the two main parties. To account for class inequalities in turnout three main hypotheses – to do with policy indifference, policy alienation and social alienation – are tested. The results from the British context suggest that the social background of political representatives influences the ways in which voters participate in the political process, and that the decline in proportion of elected representatives from working-class backgrounds is strongly associated with the rise of working-class abstention.

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Copyright
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Department of Politics and International Relations, Royal Holloway, University of London, (email: Oliver.Heath@rhul.ac.uk). The author thanks Heinrich Best and Stephan Jahr for sharing data, and Geoffrey Evans, Nicholas Allen, the Editor Robert Johns and the reviewers for their constructive comments and feedback. Further data is available at http://dataverse.harvard.edu/dataverse/BJPolS.

Footnotes
References
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