How do people decide how to vote in an election?

The calling of a snap General Election in the UK was hardly a surprise: Boris Johnson was planning one from the day he became Prime Minister and, after failing to get his Brexit deal through Parliament, he decided to seek the majority he needs to get his deal “over the line”.

The result may not be a surprise either. All the polls are currently suggesting a clear win for the Conservatives – although they were wrong in 2017.

But, how does the individual voter make up his or her mind how to vote? I put the factors as ‘the three Ps’.

Personality: Some voters decide on the basis of their local candidate, judging the calibre or reputation of that candidate or voting tactically because they want a particular party to win the seat or not win the seat. Many voters decide on the basis of the leader of the political parties, especially making a judgement as to who would be the best Prime Minister. In the current General Election, both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are very popular with some and loathed by others.

Policies: Some voters look at what the various parties have to say on policies that matter to them. These might be general issues, most notably in this election the question of Brexit or more usually subjects like levels of taxation and public expenditure or the state of the National Health Services or schools. Or these might be specific issues such as a third runway at Heathrow or closure of a local hospital or even free superfast broadband .

Principle: More so in the past than today, voters may decide in terms of the type of society they want to see. Do they want an economy dominated by market forces and individual choice or one where the state has a more interventionist role through regulation and taxation? Do they want a state where the rich and powerful are enabled to become richer and more powerful in a ‘free’ society or do they believe that a fairer distribution of power and wealth is better for all sectors of society even if it involves an active state?

I have always made my decision on the basis of principle which essentially means that, from election to election, I have nothing to decide.  In 53 years of having the vote, I have never not voted and I have never voted anything but Labour. I shall do so again, even though I have never supported Corbyn’s leadership and fear that the Party is over-bidding. If there is a Labour Government, I hope that we will have a second referendum on Brexit when I will again vote ‘remain’.


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