Who is most likely to switch membership between different parties?

Welcome to the latest in my occasional series highlighting interesting findings from academic research. Today it is a couple of snippets from Tim Bale and Paul Webb‘s latest bit of research into political party membership: “Shopping for a better deal? Party switching amongst grassroots members in Britain” (Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, Volume 22 Number 2, 2023).

Their research is based on detailed surveying of party members, and when they’ve previously shared results that are (roughly) comparable with the party’s own internal data, they’ve stood up as being highly plausible. So on to two of their findings.

First, of those Liberal Democrat members who were previously a member of another party – which is about a quarter of all Lib Dem members – which party was that? For half, Labour was their previous party, which is twice the level of former Conservatives. (The other quarter are spread across all the remaining options.)

Second, the overall pattern of who is most likely to switch between parties:

There are several factors which make members [of any party], at least in contemporary Britain, more likely to switch parties: being especially socially liberal or socially authoritarian; being a Brexiteer; being a campaign activist; working in non-manual occupation; having a university degree; being a man rather than a woman; being older rather than younger; and being a current member of one of the country’s smaller parties.

The full article is online here.

You can read the other posts in the Evidence-based campaigning: what the academic research says series here.

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