The Geography of Voting:
Regions, Places, and
The previous chapter outlined a number of reasons why there should be a geography of voting patterns in the United Kingdom—over and above those that simply reflect compositional effects. Integral to those compositional effects, we argued, are contextual effects which result from three sets of processes: people interacting with others in social networks, people interacting with their material environments, and political parties interacting with people. All of those interactions are locationally specific: they take place in places. The result should be a geography of voting that reflects spatial variations in the nature and intensity of the interactions. In this chapter, we review the empirical evidence currently available that is consistent with that expected geography, before turning in the next four chapters to detailed explorations of the processes involved.
Given that, as shown in Chapter 1, some social groups (especially the socalled middle class) have been more inclined to support the Conservatives than any other party over more than a century, whereas others (notably the so-called working class) have been more likely to give their support to Labour, a geography of party support is certain, since those two social groups are not evenly distributed across the country. If that were the only reason for a geography of voting there would be little to analyse. The arguments discussed in Chapter 2 suggested very strongly that it is not the only reason, however: there are a number of processes operating at a variety of spatial scales and modifying the map of party support that would emerge if no contextual effects were present—perhaps substantially so. Some places may be more proConservative than expected according to their social composition, for example, and some less so. The task for geographical analysts of voting patterns is to uncover those modifications and suggest why they have occurred.
Data availability is a major difficulty facing analysts of the geography of British voting behaviour at anything smaller than the constituency scale.