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How British citizens think about the relationship between social identity, party identity, and vote

Titelman, Noam (2022) How British citizens think about the relationship between social identity, party identity, and vote. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004607


Why do citizens vote the way they do? One of the constructs that appears in several of the answers to this question is that of ”party identity”. The close connection between attitudes towards parties (partisanship) and the behavior of vote choice is one of the most robust features of the study of democratic politics. In this thesis I examine some of the building blocks of the main perspectives on party identity and its links to vote choice. The first empirical paper of this thesis measures how accurate citizens are in their perception of the ”prototypical supporter” of parties and EU referendum alternatives in Great Britain. This paper provides a direct comparison of the “images” of party supporters that citizens have in their heads and the actual composition of party support. I find that the relationship between party images and social groups is, on average, fairly accurate. However, there is substantial variation in the precision of these images and low levels of attention to politics are associated with less accuracy. The second paper measures the perception of political commonality across a variety of social demographic attributes. This allows me to disentangle the relative importance of different social identities for how citizens perceive political commonality with their fellow citizens in Great Britain. I find evidence of the importance of ethnicity, especially among Conservative and Leave voters. The third paper tests the relevance of policy vote in comparison to party labels. This paper studies the relevance of party labels and their interaction with candidates’ policy position and how it varies for different sections of the electorate. I find that, while party labels have a significant and substantive effect for sections of the electorate, many voters behave in similar ways with or without explicit party labels. In sum, the results show the complexity involved in citizens’ decision on how to vote, which differs from simplistic narratives. The results also show how more complex measurement strategies involving survey experiments can help in disentangling the complexity of this choice.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2022 Noam Titelman
Library of Congress subject classification: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
Sets: Departments > Methodology
Supervisor: Lauderdale, Benjamin E.

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