Electoral change
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Electoral Change since 1945:

Pippa Norris

Book published 1997 Blackwell 0-631-16715-3 (hb) 0-631-16716-1 (pb) 


This book explores the nature of electoral change in Britain during the last half century. The period from 1945-70 was the classic era of two-party dominance at every level of British politics: at Westminster, county hall, and in the electorate. Since the early seventies Conservative and Labour hegemony has remained virtually unaltered in Parliament, but their grip has been loosened in local government, and the popular foundations of the two-party system have been eroded among voters.

Why has Britain evolved from a dominant to a declining two-party system during the last fifty years? This study considers alternative explanations for these developments, focusing on changes in voters, parties, and political communications.

The book provides students with a fresh and accessible perspective on theories of electoral change, placing developments in Britain within their broader comparative context, and challenging many conventional assumptions about trends in voting behaviour.


"Pippa Norris has produced a very solid and thorough book that will be useful for teaching. This book really benefits from a serious look at a longer time-period and plenty of international comparisons. There is an introduction to democratic theory, followed by a systematic look at partisan alignment, social identity and party competition, putting them into perspective and historical context. There is even a discussion of alternative electoral systems. This makes sense as a book introducing students to electoral studies, providing them with the tools to understand more complex work."
Parliamentary Affairs, Spring 1999.

"This volume presents a lucid and comprehensive overview of electoral behaviour in Britain since 1945" Electoral Studies, June 1997

"It is certain to be a serious rival to established texts in the field." EPOP Newsletter, January 1997.

"Norris's book is an admirable survey of the scholarly literature on elections since 1945. It is crammed with valuable statistics and global comparisons, but it is not disfigured by the jargon which apparently lends most psephologists their sense of professional dignity. As such, like most of the volumes in this series, its style and content are ideal for undergraduate students and for the general reader. No book of this size can be truly comprehensive, but this one provides a lively introduction to all the important debates among academic observers. ...On the basis of the evidence in Norris's excellent book, it is at least safe to predict that psephology will remain a facinating and infuriating topic of study as long as we have voters, parties and elections." Times Literary Supplement, January 23 1998.

"Norris provides a very competent and clear account of the development of, and debates about, electoral behaviour in Britain...For the intended audience of non-specialists and students..Norris provides an excellent overview of the subject." Party Politics January 1998.

"Throughout the author's priority is to reinforce the point that British society, politics and electoral participation have undergone substantial transformations. This priority is well argues and well received, thereby equipping the reader with the necessary tools with which to assess wider questions such as theories of party and voter alignment...It is invaluable to students of electoral behaviour, chiefly because it encourages them to see many of the familiar debates confronting contemporary research teams through a useful change-and-development perspective." Contemporary British History, 1998



 List of Tables and Figures.


Part I: The Nature of Electoral Change:

1. Electoral Change 1945-1970.

2. Electoral Change 1970-1992.

3. The British Party System.

4. Explaining Electoral Change.


Part II: Changes in the Electorate:

5. The Partisan Identity of Voters

6. The Social Identity of Voters.


Part III: Changes in the Party System:

7. Party Competition and Ideology.

8. Party Leadership and Representatives.

9. Party Campaign Organizations.


Part IV: Changes in the Electoral Context:

10. Changes in Political Communications.

11. The Effects of the Media.

12. The Electoral System and Reform.


Further Reading.



Copyright 2004 Pippa Norris, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge MA 02138. www.pippanorris.co

Last updated 12/06/2009