So in the 2001 General Election tabloids were rapidly tired of the campaign, with the “red top” (Sun, Daily Mirror and Daily Star) titles halving coverage by the last week. Overall, only one third of their lead front-page stories related to the campaign. (Lange et al. 2004:155). During election times tabloids tend to report more on normal news, printing what is interesting to them and more importantly their reader. By normal news values taking up front page headlines these newspapers are not influencing their readers who to vote for, they already have their own preferences.
Religion plays a part in determining the outcome of elections especially in Northern Ireland. Unionist parties are supported largely by Protestants and Nationalist parties by Catholics. Parties form to represent distinctive religious groups and party support comes mostly from these groups. Kotler-Berkowitz states that “Religious affiliation still makes a significant difference in British electoral behaviour. Religious practices, religious beliefs and the religious composition of households also affect voting behaviour. ” (Kotler-Berkowitz, 2001:524).
People tend to support a particular party which represents their best interests and in this case their religious interests. Many electors have made up their mind already on the grounds of religious beliefs before an election campaign even begins, therefore the media cannot determine voting behaviour in this case. The strength of a political party and their identification is extremely important in the run up to elections. The popularity of a party may determine their vote as the electorate are not going to vote for a party that is unpopular and doesn’t stand a chance to win seats and therefore be in any way effective.
A politician or party’s stance on particular issues will generate support for them. For example Labour deliberately targeted women in the last two elections with their policies on childcare and working families tax credit. 1997 was the first General Election at which Labour was women’s first choice party – this honour had previously been held by the Conservatives since the Second World War. At the 2001 election, the gap in voting preferences between men and women (the so-called gender gap) saw 4% more women voting Labour than men, and 2% less women voting Conservative than men.
(“Women’s representation in British Politics” Fawcett Society, Accessed 14 November 2007). In addition party leadership is another factor which may determine the outcome of elections; leaders are the embodiment of political parties. In order for parties to secure the vote a popular, charismatic individual is needed. The general consensus among analysts of British Politics is that class still remains the basis of voting behaviour. Pulzer’s claim that “class was the basis of British politics while all else was embellishment and detail” (Pulzer, 1968,).
Many agree with Pulzer’s claim and identify social class as the most important factor associated with voting behaviour. Cambridge university press state that there is “very strong evidence that members of each social class were much more likely to vote Labour than Conservative in the low-status than in the high-status areas. ” The working class were therefore expected to vote Labour and the middle class Conservative. Drucker argues that before 1970 there was a significant relationship between voting and social class, this link is now being broken (Drucker, 1989:199).
Nowadays voters are less likely to support a party simply because it represents a particular class. The working class began to feel more middle class due to material possessions and occupational changes and more importantly the decrease in size of the working class, therefore voting for the party of the middle class- the Conservatives. Class in undoubtedly a significant factor when considering voting behaviour in the UK. All of these rational factors outlined above as well as the input of the mass media influence voting and people’s ability to vote based on what it best for them.
There is very little doubt that the media plays a big part in generating information during UK Parliamentary elections through broadcasts, newspaper articles and on television. However, this factor cannot determine the outcome of elections alone. Although the media does a very good job in trying to influence the consumer it is at the end of the day the individual who decides which party to support on the basis of the party’s policies, loyalty, capability and leadership.
Bibliography Drucker, H. M. et al. (ed) (1986): Developments in British Politics 2.Macmillan, London King, A. (ed) (2002): Britain at the Polls, 2001. New York Chatham House. Accessed 12 November 2007. http://www. netLibrary. com/urlapi. asp? action=summary;v=1;bookid=66998 Kotler-Berkowitz, L. A. (2001): Religion and Voting Behaviour in Great Britain: A Reassessment. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Lange, B. P. , Ward, D. (ed) (2002): The Media and Elections: A Handbook and Comparative Study. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, New Jersey McAllister, I. (2001): “Class Dealignment and the Neighbourhood Effect: Miller Revisited”.
British Journal of Political Science. 31: 41-59 Cambridge University Press Negrine, R. (1989): Politics and the Mass Media in Britain. Routledge, London. Pulzer, P. (1968): Political Representation and Elections in Britain. Allen and Unwin, London Seaton, J. (ed) (1998): Politics and the Media: Harlots and Prerogatives at the Turn of the Millennium. Blackwell Publishers, Oxford. “Women’s representation in British Politics” Fawcett Society, Accessed 14 November 2007 http://www. fawcettsociety. org. uk/documents/represention.