Most academic study of British voting behaviour is conducted by political scientists, although economists, sociologists, lawyers and psychologists have made important contributions—as indeed have a small number of geographers. The latter bring a particular perspective on the subject, one that involves much more than simply mapping election results. This has been generally recognized among the academic community of electoral specialists, with geographers playing significant roles in the deliberations of the Elections, Parties and Public Opinion Specialist Group of the Political Studies Association.
We have been part of that community since it was founded, a few years after we began our collaboration in studies of various aspects of electoral geography, mainly, though not exclusively, in the UK. Our perspective— basically, highlighting the importance of space and, especially, place in the understanding of voting and the operation of electoral systems—has become part of the contemporary discourse of UK electoral studies, rather than a separately identifiable sub-sub-discipline. In this book we synthesize that perspective by providing both an overview and an insight into the most recent research. It is not a textbook in the standard mould, therefore. The first three chapters provide the overview, making the case for the geographical perspective within British electoral studies and reviewing the relevant literature: not all of it by geographers, by any means—most students of elections incorporate some geography into their work, we stress it. The remaining five chapters illustrate the case for that perspective, reporting on recent research—some of it, notably, on the 2005 general election, previously unpublished—which illustrates in depth (rather than in summary) the insights that our approach brings. Four of those chapters focus on geography and voting; the last looks at the translation of votes into seats.
During our collaboration over the past 20 years a number of colleagues have joined us (including some with whom one of us worked before the collaboration began). Philip Cowley, David Cutts, David Denver, Danny Dorling, Ed Fieldhouse, Alan Hay, Kelvyn Jones, Iain McAllister, Colin Rallings, David Rossiter, Andrew Russell, Andrew Schumann, Pat Seyd, Peter Taylor, Michael Thrasher, Helena Tunstall, and Paul Whiteley have all contributed in various ways, not only to specific pieces of work but also to the development of our ideas, and we are grateful to them for their collaboration and companionship. Others, too, have contributed importantly, if indirectly, to our work—not least the various teams who have managed the British Election Studies programmes, without whose data much that we have done—and have reported here—could not have been undertaken: in particular, David Butler, Harold Clarke, Ivor Crewe, John Curtice, Geoff Evans,