Region, Local Context, and Voting at the 1997 General Election in England


  • The research on which this article is based was funded by the UK's Economic and Social Research Council, Research Methods Programme ( Grant H333 25 0042. Thanks are due to Rebecca Sarker and Anne Bolster for research assistance in preparation of the data sets and to Nick Buck of the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex for linking the BHPS data to the small-area census data and releasing them to us.

Ron Johnston and Kelvyn Jones are professors in the School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, BS8 1SS, United Kingdom ( and Carol Propper and Simon Burgess are professors of economics in the Centre for Market and Public Organisation, Bristol Institute of Public Affairs, University of Bristol, BS8 1TX, UK ( and


There has been considerable debate in recent work on voting patterns in Great Britain regarding the importance of regional effects: are these “real” or are they simply statistical artifacts of decision-making processes at smaller spatial scales which are aggregated up to the regional scale if not incorporated directly into any modeling? Using a multilevel model design, this article reports on analyses of survey data for the 1997 general election in England which allows tests of whether regional variations are no more than aggregation effects. Individual voters are nested within households, neighborhoods, constituencies, and regions and when all of the smaller-scale spatial levels are included in the model, the observed regional effects are statistically insignificant. At the 1997 general election, at least, regional variations within England in support for the three main parties—basically, a north-south divide—are aggregation effects.