'Victorian Voting: Party Orientation and Class Alignment Revisited'

(Nuffield College Political Science Seminar)

Using individual elector level panel data from the 19th century UK poll books, we reassess the development of a party centred electorate in the United Kingdom. In line with findings of Cox, we find that the British electorate was party centred by the time of the major late Victorian institutional reforms. Going further, we show that the decline in candidate centred voting is largely attributable to changes in the behaviour of the English working class. The observed party orientation of the working classes is familiar: The working classes, at least those skilled enough to vote prior to 1868, aligned with the left. Our analysis suggests that class alignment in British politics may have occurred much earlier than previously thought.