Malcolm Brynin and David Sanders, "Party Identification,
Political Preferences and Material Conditions: Evidence from
the British Household Panel Survey, 1991-2, "Party
Politics, 3 (January 1997), 53-77.
The sources of voting preferences in British general
elections have been extensively analysed. Following the
model established by the 'Michigan School' in the 1950s,
analysts of UK election surveys have tended to place
considerable stress on the explanatory role of partisan
identifications . These relatively stable and enduring
affective attachments to one or other of the major parties
are held to predispose the electors thus affected to vote
for the party with which they 'identify'. The empirical
basis for the strong theoretical emphasis accorded to party
identification in explanation of democratic voting behaviour
derives in large part from the evidence garnered from the
panel survey components of the US and British Election
Studies. These have repeatedly shown that most identifiers
acquire their party identification during their early
formative years. Moreover, although there is always a
limited amount of 'turnover' in reported identification,
those individuals who retain their identification over time
also tend to vote in same way in successive elections. As a
result, party identification is usually accorded a pivotal
causal role in the determination of voting preferences. In
addition, because party identification acts as a filter for
the interpretation of political and economic developments,
it is also held to influence, inter alia , electors'
ideological positions, policy preferences and economic
perceptions (which themselves affect voting behaviour).
Figures and Tables:
Figure 1: Conservative support (percentage vote intention)
and percentage identification with the Conservative, general
Figure 2: Labour support (percentage vote or vote intention)
and percentage identification with Labour, general elections
Figure 3: Liberal (Democrat) support (percentage vote or
vote intention) and percentage identification with the
Liberals, general elections, 1964-1992.
Figure 4: Conservative Popularity (Percent Intending to Vote
Conservative) and Percent Identifying with Conservative
Figure 5: Labour popularity (percentage intending to vote
Labour) and percentage identifying with Labour Party,
Figure 6: Liberal Democrat popularity (percentage intending
to vote Liberal Democrat) and percentage identifying with
the Liberal Democrats, 1992-1994.
Figure 7: Schematic outline of a typical party
identification model of voting choice.
Figure 8: Schematic representation of a model used to
conduct convergent validation tests of vote choice vs party
Table 1: Logit models of Conservative vote (1992) and
Conservative party identification (1991 and 1992).
Table 2: Logit models of Labour vote (1992) and Labour party
identification (1991 and 1992).
Table 3: Logit models of Conservative vote and Labour vote
(1992), including identifications terms as predictor
The simple conclusion implied by all of this is that models
of the sort reported in Table 3, in which identification is
employed as a predictor of vote choice, are woefully
mis-specified. In these circumstances, analysts have three
alternatives available to them: (1) abandon the concept of
party identification as an 'explanation' of vote choice
altogether; (2) seek to specify and estimate separate models
of vote choice and of party identification which by
definition exclude the other from the right-hand side of the
specified equation; or (3) recognize that the current
battery of party identification questions do not effectively
measure respondents' 'enduring affective attachments' and
contrive to establish new measures of 'real' party
identification. Given that there are minor, and potentially
interesting, variations in the equations for vote choice and
identification shown in Tables 1 and 2, our preference would
be for the second option.