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The Decline of Class Revisited: Class and Party in England, 1964-1979

Jonathan Kelley, Ian McAllister and Anthony Mughan
The American Political Science Review
Vol. 79, No. 3 (Sep., 1985), pp. 719-737
DOI: 10.2307/1956840
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1956840
Page Count: 19
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The Decline of Class Revisited: Class and Party in England, 1964-1979
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Abstract

Class has long been the preeminent source of political conflict in industrial society, but its electoral influence has declined in recent years. The sources of the decline are not yet firmly established, and moreover the implications for political parties remain unclear. The decline-of-class hypothesis states that parties on the left will decline as the working class becomes more affluent and adopts middle-class styles of conduct. By contrast, the party-appeals hypothesis suggests that as the electorate becomes more middle class, parties of the left will alter their appeals to encompass the growing middle class and so offset the shrinkage of their traditional working-class constituency. This article applies multivariate anaysis to survey data collected in England between 1964 and 1979 to test four specific hypotheses derived from the two scenarios. The results support the decline-of-class theory's prediction that economic development erodes the working-class bases of left-wing parties, but not its claim that the left-wing party's vote declines proportionately. Rather, the results suggest that parties are apparently able to change their appeals to reduce their losses, as argued by the party-appeals theory, but not to eliminate them. It seems that their are restraints on parties' ability to change their appeals, limitations not envisioned by the party appeals theory.

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