British By-Elections: The Volatile Electorate

Hardcover | April 30, 1999

byPippa Norris

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By-elections raise fundamental questions, such as: why do third parties manage unexpected breakthroughs in such contests? Why does the government of the day consistently lose support through the `mid-term blues'? Are by-elections essentially idiosyncratic contests reflecting the strengthsand weaknesses of individual candidates in particular constituencies? Or can a series of by-election results provide an accurate indication of party popularity in subsequent general elections? Pippa Norris addresses these questions through her analysis of post-war trends in party support. She covers changes in campaigns, contrasting the stable by-elections of the post-war decade with the more volatile ones characteristic of today. She then explores systematic trends in the light oftheories of partisan dealignment and retrospective voting, analysing the influence of campaign-specific factors, notably the role of candidates, party organizations, the media, and opinion polls. To set Britain in a comparative context, she also surveys trends in by-elections in Canada andAustralia. Finally there is an essential reference section listing changes in party support in almost four hundred British by-elections since 1945.

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By-elections raise fundamental questions, such as: why do third parties manage unexpected breakthroughs in such contests? Why does the government of the day consistently lose support through the `mid-term blues'? Are by-elections essentially idiosyncratic contests reflecting the strengthsand weaknesses of individual candidates in par...

Pippa Norris is a Lecturer in Politics at the University of Edinburgh.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:278 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.87 inPublished:April 30, 1999Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198273304

ISBN - 13:9780198273301

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'The time is appropriate for a thoughtful and comprehensive study of by-elections to fill vacancies in the British House of Commons. Dr Norris attempts with some success to link the changing nature of parliamentary by-elections to theories of party dealignment and realignment currentlycontroversial among British political scientists, and also to the debate about the increased volatility of the British electorate ... generally solid, worthwhile analytical elements.'Robert Waller, Harris Research Centre, Parliamentary History, 1992