If a political commentator or politician of the 1920s or 1930s were able to read the previous chapter then he or she would be amazed at the relative lack of attention given to party policies or to topical events and political issues. Before survey studies of voting behaviour began, elections and voting were conceived of largely in terms of choices between competing sets of policy proposals. The voter was pictured as weighing up the policies of the different parties, or the qualities and positions of candidates, and on that basis deciding whom to support. The party which won an election was thought to have a ‘mandate’ from the electorate for all of its policy proposals as detailed in its election manifesto. In the nineteenth century, the political philosopher John Stuart Mill (1963 edition: 302–4) said this about the voter:
His vote is not a thing in which he has an option … he is bound to give it according to his best and his most conscientious opinion of the public good … the voter is under an absolute moral obligation to consider the interest of the public, not his private advantage, and give his vote to the best of his judgement exactly as he would be bound to do if he were the sole voter and the election depended upon him alone.