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Voting Behaviour


Submitted By ccosgrove1
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Britain is broadly described as a democracy. A nation where the people choose their leaders and hold them accountable for their policies and their conduct in office. The people decide who will represent them in parliament, and who will head the government at the national and local levels. They do so by choosing between competing parties in regular, free and fair elections. Some people say that participation is the key to democracy. If a certain group of society do not vote, or there is apathy in voting turnouts, then there isn’t a fair outcome. For example, 2003 saw Labour leader Tony Blair declare war in Iraq. Despite the media’s portrayal and lack of support for Blair on his decision, he was re-elected as priminister in the 2005 UK general elections. This made a lot of people upset and angry. However, the turnout for that election was low (61.4%) so it could be argued that because Britain is a democracy, the general public are the soul blame for the outcome of the election. On the other hand, people believe that Britain cannot be a democracy if public participation is so low. They believe that to be a real democracy, the whole population must get involved and have a say. So when only over half of those eligible to vote do, there are questions to be asked as to whether the UK could be defined as such. There has been an increase in pressure groups. They can use a variety of different methods to influence law. These groups most often seem more important than political parties as they focus on one single issue rather than a broad range of policies. The national union of Students (NUS) are active to change the laws on ‘unfair’ student tuition fees. Many would agree that because members of the public can vote freely for and against these groups that a democracy exists. Yet, as with parties, their contribution to democratic life is indispensable. Dealing as they often do with narrow and specialised issues they are a vital channel between the governed and the governors. However, pressure groups are often attacked for misrepresenting the democratic process.
There are many types of participation. Political participation is any activity that shapes, affects, or involves the political sphere. Political participation ranges from voting to attending a rally to committing an act of terrorism to sending a letter to a representative. A British citizen generally participates in local council elections, general elections and European elections. In 2005, the UK’s turnout at the European Parliament election turnout was 34.7%. Many may suggest that the low turnout in this election is due to the disenchantment of the general public when it comes to European politics which again supports the idea that participation is the key to democracy. Others would argue that because there are republican countries within the EU (such as Italy and France) there cannot possibly be an overall democracy.
There is a link between age and party support, although it is not easy to say why this is, those under the age of 35 tend to vote Labour and the Conservative vote increases with age. This may be because Labour has always been seen to be the idealistic party vote, looking for a democratic society. There is also a link between ethnicity and voting behaviour. The labour party has tended to benefit from the ethnic minority vote such as Afro-Caribbean. However, they have lost many Muslim votes in 2005 perhaps as a protest to the Iraq war. Because ethnic minorities have a right to vote in the UK, this adds to the democracy

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