Social groups often differ in vote choice, but differences vary significantly between elections. Recent work argues that political parties shape group differences by the policies they propose. I posit that differences also depend on how parties use group-based appeals. This proposition is tested with a unique dataset on group-based appeals, policy-based appeals, and voter preferences in Britain from 1964 to 2015. Focusing on social class as one prominent group membership, I show how class differences in vote choice respond to policy-based as well as group-based class appeals: the gap between voters from opposing classes widens or narrows depending on how much the Labour Party emphasizes ‘old’ symbolic ties to workers and ‘new’ ties to businesses. These effects are robust and compare to the policy effects highlighted in previous work. Overall, this implies a revised view on how political parties influence the social divisions of electoral politics.
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Journal of Politics