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School of Politics and International Relations

Voters often know little but politicians can’t ignore them

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Professor Philip Cowley wrote an opinion piece for the Evening Standard on understanding British voters. He writes: “Like winter, an election is coming. If I had one piece of advice for those gathering at party conferences, or hunkering down in strategy meetings, it would be this: know your voters. Not as you want them to be, but as they actually are. Voters’ factual knowledge about politics and policy is often lamentable — or, as one of our favourite recent headlines put it: “British public wrong about nearly everything, survey shows.” Yet for all the criticism they get (and give), British voters respond fairly coherently to what governments do; they may not know the details but they reliably spot the direction of travel. And they are more demanding than before. The loyalties of the immediate post-war era, with voters always backing the same party, have been replaced in part by a Leave/Remain divide that parties are still coming to terms with.”

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