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Published 2013 | public
Journal Article

The Ecology of Tactical Voting in Britain


Analyses of both aggregate-level constituency data and individual-level survey data from the 1983–2005 British General Elections indicate that when available information clearly signals which parties in a constituency are viable and which are not, supporters of nonviable parties vote tactically. Alliance/Liberal Democrat tactical voters tend to split their votes between Labour and the Conservatives, so the major parties derive limited net benefit from them. When Labour faces a dismal outlook in a constituency many of its supporters also vote tactically, and those that do overwhelmingly cast their votes for the Alliance/Liberal Democrats. Strong tactical support received from Labour voters has furnished the margin of victory in as many as a fifth of the contests that the Alliance/Liberal Democrats have won. A party that has repeatedly seen Duverger's mechanical" factor reduce the sizable share of votes it wins nationally to a far smaller share of seats thus turns out to be the biggest beneficiary of tactical voting.

Additional Information

© 2013 Elections, Public Opinion & Parties. I would like to thank Mike Alvarez, Steven Ansolabehere, Anthony Fowler, Stephen Fisher, Tim Groseclose, Leslie Johns, Jonathan Katz, Ines Levin, Jerry Loewenberg, Neil Malhotra, Tom Palfrey, Julian Romero, Cameron Shelton, Tom Schwartz, David Sears, Erik Snowberg, Langche Zeng, as well as the editor and referees of this journal for their assistance and advice. I am also indebted to Stephen Fisher, Pippa Norris, Charles Pattie and Colin Rallings for generously providing me with data, and to Kay Sumpner in the UK Office for National Statistics for her assistance in helping me obtain additional census data.

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August 19, 2023
October 17, 2023