Voting by Party Identity

Many voters find that voting by party identity is simpler than engaging with the different issues at each layer of political governance.

It has been reported that Voters in west divided more by identity than issues, survey finds:

“The annual survey of more than 27,000 people in 27 countries began by asking respondents how they felt about various political affiliations and labels. The results revealed voters fractured into bitterly opposed camps.”

This phenomenon goes some way towards explaining the phenomenon of polarisation in national politics that was described earlier (  With the increased complexity of multi-level voting, people are even more likely to vote for the party labels with which they are familiar – regardless of the different issues that are relevant at each level of governance.  Individual voters have more refined control over how they are governed if there are different layers of election, but voters can easily become confused:

●  The governance framework may be too complicated for people to fully understand, so they find it difficult to vote meaningfully.  Very clear communication is necessary – and the result of complexity can be either confusion or apathy.

●  People are aware of national political parties and what they stand for, so in practice they tend to vote along party lines even though national issues are not the most important or relevant at local, multinational or global levels.  For example, Ken Livingstone may have lost the 2008 London mayoral election because of voter confusion: in a Guardian review, You Can’t Say That: A Memoir by Ken Livingstone, it was argued that he lost it because of a national issue which had nothing to do with local government in London:

“The decisive factor was Labour’s deep unpopularity under Brown after the abolition of the 10p tax rate, which overwhelmed the mayor’s stronger support base.”

●  If politicians have responsibilities at more than one level of subsidiarity, they cannot be clearly interpreted as having electoral mandates in all their roles.  For example national politicians are normally elected on the basis of domestic political issues, but they also represent their countries in the EU Council of Ministers and in global policy-making (

The best option for many people is probably to vote according to their political ideologies – which would be a coherent approach and would give them a hand on the governance ‘joystick’ (



This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/6674.htm.