The United Kingdom 2017 election: polarisation in a split issue space

Cristian Vaccari, Kaat Smets, Oliver Heath

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After decades in which party competition was fought in the centre ground, the 2017 UK General Election witnessed a return to more conflictual politics. In this article, we assess public support for the electoral strategies of the main parties and examine the extent to which the issues the parties campaigned on resonated with their own supporters, as well as with the wider public. Drawing on De Sio and Weber’s (2014) issue yield framework, we show that the Conservative campaign – generally considered to be badly run – did not focus on issues that would fully exploit the opportunities for expanding support that were open to the party. Labour, by contrast, played a much better hand. While taking a clear left-wing stance on many policies that were popular with its constituency, the party also skilfully emphasized valence issues that Labour is often seen as more credible on, such as healthcare and education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)587-609
Number of pages23
JournalWest European Politics
Issue number3
Early online date1 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • UK 2017 General Election
  • Party competition
  • Election campaigns
  • Issue yield
  • Voting behaviour

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