Variance in how citizens interact with the political world constitutes one of many classes of individual difference. Understanding the antecedents of this variance is the central objective for students of political behaviour, and researchers draw on numerous factors in addressing this task. Unfortunately, one potentially vital factor, personality, has received only sporadic attention in recent decades. Neglect of personality was understandable for many years, as psychological research on personality failed to produce concise taxonomies applicable to the study of politics. As the present analysis demonstrates, however, this situation has changed. Research on personality has gained new footing with the emergence of a series of five-factor models, and these frameworks hold great potential for the study of political behaviour. This thesis is advanced in a two-part analysis. First, we outline how and why our understanding of citizen politics may be improved through application of five-factor models of personality. In doing so, we focus on the components of one specific taxonomy, the Big Five lexical model. Secondly, using three datasets, we explore the link between the Big Five personality factors and a wide array of political attitudes and behaviours. Results reveal that all facets of personality captured by the Big Five framework matter for citizen politics, and that personality effects operate on virtually all aspects of political behaviour. These findings demonstrate the insight that can emerge with further application of broad-scale models of personality.
This article employs World Values Survey measures of life satisfaction as though they were direct measures of utility, and uses them to evaluate alternative features and forms of government in large international samples. Life satisfaction is found to be more closely linked to several World Bank measures of the quality of government than to real per capita incomes, in simple correlations and more fully specified models explaining international differences in life satisfaction. Differences in the relative importance of different aspects of good government are tested for, and a hierarchy of preferences that depends on the level of development is found. The ability of governments to provide a trustworthy environment, and to deliver services honestly and efficiently, appears to be of paramount importance for countries with worse governance and lower incomes. The balance changes once acceptable levels of efficiency, trust and incomes are achieved, when more value is attached to building and maintaining the institutions of electoral democracy.
A widespread turn towards mechanism-centred explanations can be viewed across the social sciences in recent decades. This article clarifies what it might mean in practical terms to adopt a mechanismic view of causation. This simple task of definition turns out to be considerably more difficult than it might at first appear. The body of the article elucidates a series of tensions and conflicts within this ambient concept, looking closely at how influential authors have employed this ubiquitous term. It is discovered that 'mechanism' has at least nine distinct meanings as the term is used within contemporary social science: (1) the pathway or process by which an effect is produced; (2) an unobservable causal factor; (3) an easy-to-observe causal factor; (4) a context-dependent (bounded) explanation; (5) a universal (or at least highly general) explanation; (6) an explanation that presumes highly contingent phenomena; (7) an explanation built on phenomena that exhibit lawlike regularities; (8) a distinct technique of analysis (based on qualitative, case study, or process-tracing evidence); or (9) a micro-level explanation for a causal phenomenon. Some of these meanings may be combined into coherent definitions; others are obviously contradictory. It is argued, however, that only the first meaning is consistent with all contemporary usages and with contemporary practices within the social sciences; this is therefore proposed as a minimal (core) definition of the concept. The other meanings are regarded as arguments surrounding the core concept.
Advocates of proportional representation (PR) often cite its potential for increasing citizen involvement in politics as one of PR's fundamental advantages over plurality or first-past-the-post systems. The assumption is that plurality electoral systems distort the translation of votes into seats, discouraging and alienating small party supporters and other political minorities. In contrast, PR systems are believed to provide greater opportunities for representation which are assumed to instil greater efficacy and increase participation. We examine this theory linking institutions to electoral participation across a diverse set of countries using data from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems. Using a multi-level approach we find evidence consistent with the expectations about the negative influence of disproportional systems on political minorities. Voters are also likely to have stronger partisan preferences in PR systems, which enhances political efficacy and increases voter participation. The effects of PR, however, are not all positive; broad coalitions, which are likely to be a feature of these systems, reduce political efficacy.
Authoritarian governments may face serious uncertainties when dealing with popular resistance because of the unpredictable consequences of making concessions or repressing opposition. However, a political system with multiple levels of authority can help reduce the uncertainties by granting conditional autonomy to lower-level authorities. Such a power structure prevents excessive repression and unconditional concessions when the priorities of different levels of authority do not match. Under this political arrangement, the central authority can avoid blame when local authorities use repression. The divided power also helps reduce the uncertainties faced by the central authority because it will then have to deal with only a very limited number of instances of resistance. Using the case of China, this article shows that divided state power has allowed the party-state to maintain social stability amid numerous instances of social unrest during the reform era.
Traditional explanations of the origins of regional parties as the products of regionally-based social cleavages cannot fully account for the variation in regional party strength both within and across countries. This unexplained variance can be explained, however, by looking at institutions, and in particular, political decentralization. This argument is tested with a statistical analysis of thirty-seven democracies around the world from 1945 to 2002. The analysis shows that political decentralization increases the strength of regional parties in national legislatures, independent of the strength of regional cleavages, as well as of various features of a country's political system, such as fiscal decentralization, presidentialism, electoral proportionality, cross-regional voting laws and the sequencing of executive and legislative elections.
Why do new parties continue emerging and attracting votes in new democracies? Does the duration of the democratic regime facilitate party system stabilization? With original data on legislative elections in fifteen East European countries (1990-2004), this article shows that new party entry is more likely when the cost of entry is low, the benefit of office is high and the perceived level of electoral viability is high. Support for new parties is influenced by the extent of disappointment with existing parties. Further, while the number of new parties decreases gradually as democracies age, the support for new entrants follows no clear unidirectional pattern across time.
A model of policy implementation in a parliamentary democracy as delegation between the prime minister and her cabinet ministers is introduced. Cabinet reshuffles can be pursued as a strategy to reduce the agency loss which occurs due to the different preferences of the actors. This work thus explains why prime ministers resort to reshuffles: cabinet reshuffles reduce the moral hazard facing ministers. This answer both augments and distinguishes this work from traditional perspectives on reshuffles that have emphasized the deleterious effects of reshuffles on ministerial capacity, and also from recent work that casts reshuffles as solutions to the adverse-selection problems inherent in cabinet government. The conclusion offers a preliminary test of some of the hypotheses generated by this theory.
Declining political participation has caused much concern among political scientists and politicians. This article builds upon Henrik Bang's conceptualization of Expert Citizens and Everyday Makers as new forms of political participation. Using the 2001 Home Office Citizenship Survey, we identify four types of political participant: Political Activists, Expert Citizens, Everyday Makers and Non-Participants. We assess the socio-demographic and cultural factors underlying these different types of participant. We then move on to explore the association between the types of political participation and two domains of political beliefs/actions: political trust and efficacy; and political contacting and voice. Our analysis shows significant differences between the types of participant in the two domains under investigation and thus lends support to our development of Bang's conceptualization of new forms of political participation as useful tools in empirical research.
Do voters reward or punish incumbents for retrospective performance similarly in different democratic regimes? Despite debates on the merits of different regimes, little research has investigated the implications of consitutional design on voters' ability to hold politicians to account. This article shows that regime type determines the way and extent to which elections enable voters to reward or sanction incumbents. These regime effects are separate from and conceptually prior to factors previously identified in the literature on comparative economic voting. Analysis of elections from seventy-five countries reveals that, all else equal, voters have greater potential to hold incumbents to accounts under the separation of powers than under parliamentarism. Moreover, variables particular to separation of powers systems-the electoral cycle in pure presidential systems and instances of cohabitation in semi-presidential systems - affect the relative impact of the attribution of responsibility. The results contribute to ongoing debates about the relative advantages of different constitutional formats for democratic performance.
This article uses longitudinal data from the National Child Development Study (NCDS) to investigate the determinants of voter turnout in the 1997 British general election. It introduces measures of cognitive ability and personality into the participation literature and finds that they are significant determinants of turnout. It also shows that standard turnout models may be biased by the inclusion of the much used 'interest in politics' measure. A bivariate probit model of turnout and political interest finds that individuals with high comprehension ability and an aggressive personality are more likely to both turn out to vote and have an interest in politics.
A long tradition within political science examines the impact of party canvassing on voter participation. Very little of this work, however, is comparative in scope. This essay examines how system-level characteristics shape the nature and impact of party canvassing and how voters respond to those efforts. Parties are found to target the same types of potential voters everywhere - those who are likely to participate. However, one important difference is that overall levels of party contact are far greater in candidate-based systems than in proportional representation (PR) systems. Party mobilization, therefore, cannot explain the higher rates of turnout observed in PR systems.
This article presents evidence that both micro (individual level) and macro (aggregate level) theories of public opinion overstate the importance of political sophistication for opinion change. It is argued that even the least politically sophisticated segment of society receives messages about the economy and uses this information to update attitudes about political issues. To test this hypothesis, the authors have used General Social Survey data to construct a 31-item measure of policy mood, disaggregated by political sophistication, that spans from 1972 to 2004. They found that all the subgroups generally changed opinion at the same time, in the same direction, and to about the same extent. Furthermore, they show that groups at different sophistication levels change opinions for predominantly the same reasons.
There is extensive theoretical research that explores the linkages between parties' policy positions, on the one hand, and the characteristics of the political system (i.e. voting rules and the number of parties) on the other, but empirical research on this topic is less developed. Building on earlier work by Jay Dow, this article reports empirical analyses exploring the connections between the average party policy extremism in fifteen party systems (defined as the average party policy distance from the party system centre), and two important system-level variables: the proportionality of the electoral laws used to select representatives to the national legislature, and the number of political parties. Contrary to expectations - but consistent with recent theoretical work by Norman Schofield and his co-authors - no evidence is found that average party policy extremism increases under proportional representation, nor that policy extremism increases in countries that feature large numbers of parties. These findings have important implications for political representation and for understanding parties' election strategies.
The central question in this study is whether the power of the media agenda over the political agenda has recently increased. The agenda-building dynamics are established using cross-country time-series data on four issues, covering fifteen and eight years respectively of British and Dutch parliamentary debates and newspaper articles. Structural equation models show that the parliamentary agenda is more influenced by the media agenda than the other way around, and that the power balance has shifted even more in favour of the media. It is additionally found that media power is especially associated with issues within the European domain. This study contributes empirically to the 'mediatization' debate in a EU context, which is largely limited to the realm of theoretical speculation.
This is an analysis of the spatial structure of political participation in the United States using spatial econometric techniques and newly available geo-coded data. The results provide strong evidence that political participation is geographically clustered, and that this clustering cannot be explained entirely by social network involvement, individual-level characteristics, such as race, income, education, cognitive forms of political engagement, aggregate-level factors such as racial diversity, income inequality, mobilization or mean education level. The analysis suggests that the spatial structure of participation is consistent with a diffusion process that occurs independently from citizens' involvement in social networks.
Can the positive impact of non-partisan 'Get Out the Vote' (GOTV) campaigns be generalized to a variety of institutional and cultural contexts? Gerber, Green and colleagues tested for the effects of these campaigns in a series of pioneering field experiments, which show that a face-to-face contact from a non-partisan source, carried out by a field force calling at the homes of citizens seeking to persuade them to vote, can increase voter turnout. Further experiments find that telephoning has an impact ranging from ineffective to positive, depending on the nature of the call; and there are positive, if weaker, results for other forms of intervention, such as door postings and leafleting; none for e-mail; and weakly positive or null impacts from rote telephoning. Many of these results derive from single cases or from a limited number of research sites; however, the culmination of these findings allows political scientists to be confident of the impact and hierarchy of these interventions. Although GOTV studies of this kind cannot adjudicate authoritatively on theories of mobilization, the difference in impact between the types of intervention, in particular the greater success of personalized messages, implies that it is the personal and face-to-face basis of influence that has an effect, rather than the types of message received and the simple provision of information. So far most of this kind of research has been carried out in the United States, which means that, even with its variety of groups and locations, the range of variation in the institutional frameworks and social conditions is limited to the one-country case. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT
Open political discussion between citizens is a cornerstone of democratic theory and contextual accounts of political behaviour. It provides both a means through which individuals can discover what their peers think and a forum within which they can rationalize, explain and perhaps modify their own opinions. Much previous research has focused on the potential of political conversation as a means of influencing others and of converting holders of minority views to the opinions of the majority. However, theoretical accounts of political conversation also stress its potential impact on more systemic attitudes towards democracy, including the development of tolerance for divergent views and lifestyles. The article provides an evaluation of these potential effects in the context of recent British politics.
But why has identity become more important than economic interests? The answer to this question is expected from the second step of the model - the strategic mobilization by political parties. In line with Hooghe and Marks, I would argue that the opposition to the opening up of the borders has mainly come from the radical left and from the populist right. While the radical left mainly mobilizes in terms of economic interests, it is the right-wing populists who mobilize in cultural terms.
Political cleavages are often understood as deriving from either deep-rooted social divisions or institutional incentives. Contemporary Northern Ireland provides a test of the mutability of apparently entrenched cleavages to institutional change. Research undertaken before the ceasefire in the 1990s found noticeable asymmetries in the patterns of cleavage within the unionist and nationalist blocs. Within the unionist bloc, economic 'left-right' issues formed the main ideological division between the two major unionist parties. This contrasted with an ethno-national source of ideological division between the two nationalist parties. However, the emergence of a consociational form of government structure since then has demonstrated the ability of institutional incentives to reform some aspects of party competition swiftly. As evidence of this, we show that between 1989 and 2004 there was little change in the sources of support for Sinn Féin relative to the SDLP, but the influence of left-right ideology within the unionist bloc was negated as the influence of ethno-nationalism dramatically increased.