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Popular versus Elite Views of Privatization: The Case of Britain*

  • Ian McAllister (a1) and Donley T. Studlar (a2)

Abstract

Privatization is an idea that is popular among political elites throughout the advanced industrial world. In Britain, it has been the centrepiece of Margaret Thatcher's three Conservative governments, reflected in the sale of publicly-owned industries to the private sector and in the sale of council houses to their tenants. Using survey data, this article tests two models to account for privatization policy. The median voter model argues that it was a policy demanded and initiated by voters, while the elite interests model argues that it stemmed from the government and that little popular demand existed for it. The evidence confirms the elite interests model and shows that public opinion has generally accepted the status quo on the public ownership of industry. In addition, the Conservatives have made modest electoral gains from privatization. However, voters are not consistent in their views about privatizating particular industries, implying the Conservatives may lose votes with future privatization.

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Popular versus Elite Views of Privatization: The Case of Britain*

  • Ian McAllister (a1) and Donley T. Studlar (a2)

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