One of the pleasures — and, occasionally, frustrations — of studying elections is that they keep happening. No sooner, it seems, have the data from one general election been collected, analysed and pored over than people are looking forward to the next. In addition, once every five years there are elections to the European Parliament, and these tend to fall conveniently (for analysts, if not governments) between Westminster Parliament elections (2004, 2009 and so on). There are now also elections to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly and, if that were not enough, there are annual rounds of local elections. ‘Elections galore!’, one might say, and certainly more than enough to satisfy the keenest enthusiast and keep electoral analysts busy. The fact that there is always another election just around the corner means that there can be no ‘last word’ as far as explaining voting behaviour is concerned. Explanations of how individuals come to make their choices have to be refined; the outcomes of particular elections require explanation. The simple passage of time — with associated social changes and changes in the parties themselves — means that well-established theories have to be re-examined. In addition, the introduction of more proportional electoral systems has meant that voting decisions have become more complex; there is more to understand than there used to be.
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