By-elections raise fundamental questions, such as: why do third parties manage unexpected breakthroughs in such contests? Why does the government of the day consistently lose support through the `mid-term blues'? Are by-elections essentially idiosyncratic contests reflecting the strengths and weaknesses of individual candidates in particular constituencies? Or can a series of by-election results provide an accurate indication of party popularity in subsequent
general elections? Pippa Norris addresses these questions through her analysis of post-war trends in party support. She covers changes in campaigns, contrasting the stable
by-elections of the post-war decade with the more volatile ones characteristic of today. She then explores systematic trends in the light of theories of partisan dealignment and retrospective voting, analysing the influence of campaign-specific factors, notably the role of candidates, party organizations, the media, and opinion polls. To set Britain in a comparative context, she also surveys trends in by-elections in Canada and Australia. Finally there is an essential reference section
listing changes in party support in almost four hundred British by-elections since 1945.
`There is ... an extremely valuable appendix on postwar by-election results ... A reading of Norris's study provides a sense of perspective.' Dennis Kavanagh, Times Higher Education Supplement
'excellent study of the 1987 election ... It is helpful to have Dr Norris's overview of by-elections'
Times Literary Supplement
`an immensely thorough analysis.'
`a useful analysis of the events of some of the recent major contests and a detailed statistical assessment of the nature of swings.'
'this is a good book which should find its way on to the shelves of most people reading this Newsletter'
David Denver, Newsletter of the PSA specialist group on EPOP
'The time is appropriate for a thoughtful and comprehensive study of by-elections to fill vacancies in the British House of Commons. Dr Norris attempts with some success to link the changing nature of parliamentary by-elections to theories of party dealignment and realignment currently controversial among British political scientists, and also to the debate about the increased volatility of the British electorate ... generally solid, worthwhile analytical
Robert Waller, Harris Research Centre, Parliamentary History, 1992
List of tables and diagrams; Preface; Introduction; I: Develop ments in By-elections 1945-87; Causes and functions of By-elections; By-elections 1945-66; By-elections 1966-79; By-elections 1979-1983; By-elections 1983-87; The routine fare: Knowsley North; The political earthquakes: Greenwich; II: Trends in By-election results: By-election volatility and partisan de-alignment; Retrospective theory and government performance; The impact of candidates and party
organization; The role of the media and opinion polls; Abstainers, tacticals, floating voters; The comparative context: Australia and Canada; Conclusions: The volatile electorate; References and
bibliography; Appendix A: Post-war By-election results; Index