‘People Who Talk Together Vote Together’: An Exploration of Contextual Effects in Great Britain
Many students of British voting patterns have tested for the existence of contextual effects, which postulate that voters are influenced by events and people in their local milieux. One of those contextual effects is the neighborhood effect, whereby individuals are influenced by the nature of the politically relevant information circulating within their social networks, many of which are spatially constrained to their local area. Although ecological analyses have identified patterns consistent with this hypothesis, there have been virtually no direct investigations of the effect, largely because of the absence of relevant data. Using information from a large, clustered survey of voters at the time of the 1992 general election, this paper uncovers clear evidence of such effects: people are much more likely to change their votes in a particular direction if those with whom they discuss political issues support that direction, especially if they are members of the respondent's family and are the individuals with whom they discuss politics most.