Economic voting in Britain, 1857-1914

Robert Hodgson, John Maloney*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite limited government control over the pre-1914 economy, opposition politicians were enthusiastic in blaming bad economic news on the incumbent. In a study of 458 by-elections between 1857 and 1914, we find that voters typically gave new governments a 'honeymoon' but thereafter held them responsible for high unemployment and high prices. Each 1% rise in the price level, on average, brought about a 0.21% swing against the government of the day, while each one-point rise in the percentage unemployed had double this effect. However, when we split the electorate into borough and county constituencies, economic voting appears to be confined to the former.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)668-678
Number of pages11
JournalElectoral Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Britain
  • Elections
  • Prices
  • Unemployment

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