Spatial variations in economic attitudes and voting behaviour in Britain, 1983-92
The objective of this thesis is to assess the role of geography in the construction of economic attitudes and electoral behaviour in Britain during the 1980s and the early 1990s. Aggregate and individual level data are used to separate two specific time periods - the economic recovery of the 1980s and the 'new' recession of the early 1990s. The new recession also coincided with the long campaign leading to the 1992 General Election, when the Conservatives were returned for a fourth successive term. A two stage model of the relationship between social class, geography, economic attitudes and party support is constructed. Initially the link between geography and economic attitudes appears enigmatic. However, as the analysis progresses a clearer picture emerges of the geographic basis of prospective and retrospective, egocentric and sociotropic economic evaluations. Analysis of Variance and Multiple Classification Analysis techniques reveal the extent of the growing geographic divide in party support and certain economic attitudes during the 1980s. A particularly crucial theme emerges with the investigation of partisanship during inter-election periods. Groups that tend to form the core of the Conservative vote in Election years, are identified as reluctant Conservatives in non-election years. Important contextual effects are perceived in the analysis of reported vote intention, geography and economic attitudes in the run-up to the 1992 General Election. As well as the orthodox personal economic expectations variable, ascription of economic responsibility and economic approval for the Government's programme are shown to be critical to levels of Government support - and are spatially variable. Ordinary Least Squares and Logistic regression analysis reveal the precise role of geography in economic attitudes and party support. Here the 'devil is in the detail' as the interactions effects of the dependent variables reveal that when an individual's economic evaluations clashes with their geographic context, the contextual effect either dilutes - or overcomes completely - the economic effect. The analysis of individual level data represents an advance for electoral geography and for the study of geographic milieux and local socialisation effects.