Will the local elections help to predict the General Election?

On the 4th May 2017 voters will go to the polls to elect their local councils.  With the local elections only one month before the General Election on the 8th June, it can be said that the results of these elections will give some information as to how the different political parties will perform in the General Election, and possibly help predict a winner.

Based on the elections of different local councils we may be able to predict which parties will do well and where they will be the most popular, and give pollsters information that will be useful with the predictions for the General Election.

Party policy always has an influence in voting behaviour, and the election of different parties across the UK will show which policies are popular across the whole country and also which party policies are popular in local areas.

Although, the local elections are different from a General Election, and have a number of different factors which are totally separate from the issues that influence the way people vote in the General Election.

The first is locality, local councillors are often known by their constituents, and councillors legislate on issues which directly affect the area.  This sense of locality is often the same with Members of Parliament but not as often as councillors.  The locality factor may cause people to vote differently in the council elections than they would for a General Election.  For example, you may not like the national political party, but the local party councillors have your support due to their performance and what they have done for the area.  This shows how the votes in local and general elections may differ.

In addition, local elections may differ due to the voting systems being used.  In Scotland, local councils are elected using the Single Transferable Vote (STV), a completely different system than First Past the Post, the system used for General Elections.  (All these mentions of voting systems are giving me flashbacks to Higher Modern Studies).  The use of a more proportional system in Scotland means that the result from the Local Elections may not reflect the result of the General Election in Scotland.

Another issue affecting Scotland is that 16 and 17 year olds are voting in the council elections, but have not been given the vote for the General Election.  This means that one part of the population will have an influence in the outcome of the council elections, but not the General Election, which could influence the result, and make a difference.

Of course, local councils are completely different to the national party in terms of what they deal with.  Local councils deal with maintaining local services, education, road maintenance whereas the national parties are responsible for defence and the economy.  This difference cannot be ignored and will of course separate local and national government, including why people vote for them.

And of course, there is the issue of turnout, the turnout for local elections is usually significantly lower than it is for General Elections.  This makes it harder for local elections to help predict the General Election.

Overall, the council elections may give us some insight into the General Election and give pollsters some detail to work with, but there are a number of factors with local elections that set them apart. ┬áJust because the council elections are one month before a General Election, doesn’t mean that they will reflect the final result of the national vote.



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