Expressive voting and two-dimensional political competition: An application to law and order policy by New Labour in the UK

Stephen Drinkwater, Colin Jennings

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There has been much debate regarding the electoral strategy adopted by New Labour in the lead-up to and then during their time in government. This paper addresses the issue from the perspective of left/right and liberal/authoritarian considerations by examining data on individual attitudes from the British Social Attitudes survey between 1986 and 2009. The analysis indicates that New Labour’s move towards the right on economic and public policy was the main driver towards attracting new centrist voters and could thus be labelled ‘broadly’ populist. The move towards a tougher stance on law and order was more ‘narrowly’ populist in that it was used more to minimise the reduction in support from Labour’s traditional base on the left than to attract new votes. The evidence presented provides support for an expressive theory of voting in that law and order policy was arguably used to counter alienation amongst traditional, left-wing Labour supporters.

© The Author(s) 2016. This article is published with open access at The attached document (embargoed until 19/09/2017) is the author produced version of the paper uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self- archiving policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-96
JournalConstitutional Political Economy
Issue number1
Early online date19 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017

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