Tactical Voting and Electoral Pacts in the 2019 UK General Election

AuthorJonathan Mellon
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1177/14789299211027423
Published date01 August 2022
Date01 August 2022
Subject MatterEarly Results
https://doi.org/10.1177/14789299211027423
Political Studies Review
2022, Vol. 20(3) 504 –516
© The Author(s) 2021
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DOI: 10.1177/14789299211027423
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Tactical Voting and Electoral
Pacts in the 2019 UK General
Election
Jonathan Mellon
Abstract
The Brexit cleavage continued to define politics in the 2019 general election. This posed a challenge
for parties and voters on each side of the debate: how to coordinate in favour of their side in each
seat. In this note, I examine the extent to which party (electoral pacts) and voter (tactical voting)
coordination affected the outcome of the 2019 general election. On the voter side, I find that
tactical voting was only slightly more prevalent than in previous election cycles. On the party side,
I find that neither the Unite to Remain pact nor the Brexit Party’s withdrawal of candidates against
incumbent Conservatives noticeably affected the results. Holding the structure of preferences
in 2019 constant, Labour would probably have won a handful of additional seats in England and
Wales (three on average but only one clear gain) by joining the Unite to Remain pact. The effect
of the pact is limited because Labour successfully won over many Remain supporters from the
other parties during the campaign. This meant that voters of the other Remain parties were only
modestly more likely to prefer Labour over the Conservatives by the end of the campaign, and
the pool of minor party voters was generally small in Labour’s target seats. The Liberal Democrats
would have received around eight additional seats if Labour had joined the pact (again holding
preferences constant).
Keywords
Brexit, electoral pacts, 2019 UK general election, British Election Study, tactical voting
Accepted: 27 May 2021
The majoritarian electoral system in the UK has long created incentives for voters to tacti-
cally support a viable party in their local constituency rather than voting for the party they
actually prefer. Studies of British voters have shown a modest but consistent proportion
of the electorate reporting that they vote tactically (Alvarez et al., 2006; Evans et al.,
1998; Fisher, 2006; Herrmann et al., 2016; Lanoue and Bowler, 1992), with similar
Department of Politics, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
Corresponding author:
Jonathan Mellon, Department of Politics, The University of Manchester, Oxford Rd, Manchester M13 9PL,
UK.
Email: jonathan.mellon@manchester.ac.uk
1027423PSW0010.1177/14789299211027423Political Studies ReviewMellon
research-article2021
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