Political Participation: Political Conservatism

Political participation refers to voluntary activities undertaken by the mass public to influence public policy, either directly or by affecting the selection of persons who make policies

The assignment will test your knowledge and understanding of political participation and of the core political ideas of conservatism and liberalism. These will be tested (along with the core political idea of socialism.

Case Scenario

In 1967 Peter Pulzer, a distinguished political scientist, wrote: ‘Class is the basis of British politics’. He had good reason to say this. Labour had won the general election a year earlier by winning more than 60% of working-class votes. It secured the votes of only one in four middle-class voters, who preferred the Tories by more than two-to-one. Today, Britain’s economic and social structure is completely different; and so is the nature of party loyalties. Using the same yardstick as in the 1960s – whether the job of the head of each voter’s household is essentially manual (C2DE) or non-manual (ABC1) – the class gap is far narrower. In a YouGov survey of more than 3000 electors, Labour enjoyed a 1% lead among ABC1 voters, and a 6% lead among C2DE voters – a class gap of five points. However, these figures fail to tell the full story.


Social Class


Social class may no longer affect votes as powerfully as it used to. However, its influence is still far greater than conventional polls suggest in politics. As well as ascertaining their conventional class position, we asked people whether they regarded themselves as ‘working class’, ‘middle class’ or ‘upper class’. It turns out that almost one adult in three gives the ‘wrong’ answer. Nine million ABC1 adults consider themselves working class, while five million C2DE adults say they are middle class.

When we analyze party support by the social class people give themselves, we find a much larger gulf between ‘middle’ and ‘working’ class voters than between ABC1 and C2DE voters. Among ‘middle class’ voters, the Tories lead Labour by 16 – while Labour is 21% ahead among ‘working class’ voters. This time the class gap is a huge 37 points. The link between occupation and politics may have fractured, but that between people’s self-perception and party support still matters.

Those who believe that either social class still matters in the traditional way, or doesn’t matter at all, are both wrong. Social class is still a significant factor in British politics, but the nature of that factor has changed utterly. In this, as in so much else, the past is truly another country.


Using the source, evaluate the view that class-based voting has declined in importance in UK general elections.

In your response you must compare the different opinions in the source. Consider the view and the alternative view in a balanced way. Use a balance of knowledge and understanding both arising from the source and beyond the source to help you to analyze and evaluate political Participation.

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