Voter turnout has puzzled political scientists ever since Anthony Downs postulated the paradox of voting. Despite decades of research aiming to understand what drives citizens to the polls, the jury is still out on what the foundations of micro-level turnout are. This paper aims to provide a modest yet important contribution by taking a step back and summarizing where we stand and what we know. To this end, we review 90 empirical studies of individual level voter turnout in national elections published in ten top-journals during the past decade (2000–2010). Through a meta-analysis of the results reported in these studies, this paper identifies those factors that are consistently linked to individual level turnout. ► Reviews empirical research explaining individual level turnout (2000–2010). ► Analyzes test-results through meta-analysis. ► Singles out explanatory factors consistently linked to turnout.
This research note describes an update to ( ) dataset. We extend the temporal scope of the original dataset by including all legislative and presidential elections that took place in democratic states from 2001 to 2011. In addition to significantly expanding the size of the dataset, we offer a simplified classification scheme for electoral systems. We also provide more detailed information about all democratic elections since 1946, including the dates for each round of elections as well as the rules used in different electoral tiers. A brief temporal and geographic overview of the data is presented. ► Our research note describes an update to Democratic Electoral Systems dataset. ► The new dataset comprises information on 1197 legislative and 433 presidential elections. ► We provide a brief temporal and geographic overview of the data.
One of the most important developments affecting electoral competition in the United States has been the increasingly partisan behavior of the American electorate. Yet more voters than ever claim to be independents. We argue that the explanation for these seemingly contradictory trends is the rise of negative partisanship. Using data from the American National Election Studies, we show that as partisan identities have become more closely aligned with social, cultural and ideological divisions in American society, party supporters including leaning independents have developed increasingly negative feelings about the opposing party and its candidates. This has led to dramatic increases in party loyalty and straight-ticket voting, a steep decline in the advantage of incumbency and growing consistency between the results of presidential elections and the results of House, Senate and even state legislative elections. The rise of negative partisanship has had profound consequences for electoral competition, democratic representation and governance.
Research about voter turnout has expanded rapidly in recent years. This article takes stock of this development by extending the meta-analysis of Geys (2006) in two main ways. First, we add 102 studies published between 2002 and 2015 to the initial sample of 83 studies. Overall, we document only minor changes to the original inferences. Second, since different processes might conceivably play at different levels of government, we exploit the larger sample to separately analyse the determinants of voter turnout in national versus subnational elections. We find that campaign expenditures, election closeness and registration requirements have more explanatory power in national elections, whereas population size and composition, concurrent elections, and the electoral system play a more important role for explaining turnout in subnational elections.
This paper uses Twitter data to forecast the outcome of the 2015 UK General Election. While a number of empirical studies to date have demonstrated striking levels of accuracy in estimating election results using this new data source, there have been no genuine i.e. pre-election forecasts issued to date. Furthermore there have been widely varying methods and models employed with seemingly little agreement on the core criteria required for an accurate estimate. We attempt to address this deficit with our ‘baseline’ model of prediction that incorporates sentiment analysis and prior party support to generate a true forecast of parliament seat allocation. Our results indicate a hung parliament with Labour holding the majority of seats.
The amount of scholarly attention directed at resolving the question why people turn out to cast a vote is vast. In a research field dominated by empirical studies – such as the one on voter turnout – an overview of where we stand and what we know is not superfluous. Therefore, the present paper reviews and assesses the empirical evidence brought forward through a meta-analysis of 83 aggregate-level studies. We thereby concentrate on the effect of socio-economic, political and institutional variables. The results argue for the introduction of a ‘core’ model of voter turnout – including, among other elements, population size and election closeness – that can be used as a starting point for extending our knowledge on why people vote.
According to the issue ownership theory of voting, voters identify the most credible party proponent of a particular issue and cast their ballots for that issue owner. Despite the centrality of this voter-level mechanism to ownership theories of party behavior, it has seldom been examined in the literature. We explore this model and offer a refinement to its current understanding and operationalization. Returning to the roots of ownership theory, we argue that the effect of issue ownership on vote choice is conditioned by the perceived salience of the issue in question. Through individual-level analyses of vote choice in the 1997 and 2000 Canadian federal elections, we demonstrate that issue ownership affects the voting decisions of only those individuals who think that the issue is salient.
Many studies have found that political discontent and populist voting are positively related. Yet, an important shortcoming of these studies is that they interpret the correlation between these two phenomena as evidence that existing feelings of political discontent contribute to the support for populist parties. We argue that there is also a causal effect in the opposite direction: Populist parties fuel political discontent by exposing their supporters to a populist message in which they criticize the elite. Our study links individual level data on political discontent of voters to the populist message of the party they intend to vote for, employing various operationalizations of populism. Based on a 6-wave panel study from the Netherlands (2008–2013), we conclude that political discontent is both cause and consequence of the rise of populist parties. Our findings imply that the effect of political discontent on populist voting has been overestimated in many previous studies.
Social media play an increasingly important part in the communication strategies of political campaigns by reflecting information about the policy preferences and opinions of political actors and their public followers. In addition, the content of the messages provides rich information about the political issues and the framing of those issues during elections, such as whether contested issues concern Europe or rather extend pre-existing national debates. In this study, we survey the European landscape of social media using tweets originating from and referring to political actors during the 2014 European Parliament election campaign. We describe the language and national distribution of the messages, the relative volume of different types of communications, and the factors that determine the adoption and use of social media by the candidates. We also analyze the dynamics of the volume and content of the communications over the duration of the campaign with reference to both the EU integration dimension of the debate and the prominence of the most visible list-leading candidates. Our findings indicate that the lead candidates and their televised debate had a prominent influence on the volume and content of communications, and that the content and emotional tone of communications more reflects preferences along the EU dimension of political contestation rather than classic national issues relating to left-right differences.
After seven waves of European Parliament elections and European Union enlargement to 27 states, the time is ripe to analyse the temporal robustness of the second-order model. We pool all the elections in a single evaluation and also look at election-by-election variations. We analyse changes in party performance over time in all EU states as well as in the ‘original 10’, to see whether any cross-time changes are driven by the changing composition of the EU. We also look for pan-European trends in each election, as a way identifying ‘European effects’ distinct from second-order effects. There are few consistent winners and losers, although socialist parties performed worse in the last three elections than their size and government status would predict. ► European elections 2009 broadly confirm to second order model. ► Government losses similar since 1994. ► Bonus for anti-EU bonus is declining in weight and not significant in 2009. ► Signs of election specific pan-European swings such an anti-socialist in 2009.
How responsive are political parties to the issue priorities of voters? While there are numerous studies that examine policy position congruence between parties and voters or government responsiveness, we know little about the extent to which parties adjust their policy priorities to the issue concerns of voters. Following saliency and issue ownership theory, we argue that political parties listen to their voters by emphasizing policy issues in their election manifestos that have been prioritized by citizens. However, in line with second-order election theory, we expect that issue responsiveness varies with the electoral context. To test our theoretical expectations, we generated a novel dataset that combines data on issue attention of political parties from the Comparative Manifesto and the Euromanifesto projects with data on policy priorities of voters from the European Election Studies, the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems and various national election studies. We empirically test our theoretical claims based on a comprehensive analysis of 104 parties from 17 countries competing in 84 national and European elections from 1986 to 2011. Our findings have important implications for political representation in Europe.
The 2014 European Parliament elections were held against the backdrop of the worst economic crisis in post-war Europe. The elections saw an unprecedented surge in support for Eurosceptic parties. This raises the question of whether the crisis, and the EU’s response to it, can explain the rise of Eurosceptic parties. Our analysis of the 2014 European Election Study demonstrates that the degree to which individuals were adversely affected by the crisis and their discontent with the EU’s handling of the crisis are major factors in explaining defection from mainstream pro-European to Eurosceptic parties in these elections. This suggests that far from being second-order national elections concerned only with domestic politics, European issues had a significant impact on vote choices.
This paper presents a method for studying age-period-cohort effects in a comparative context where repeated cross-sectional data are available covering a suitably long period of time. The method consists in the application of multi-level models with country as the higher level of analysis and random coefficients to model variables which vary at the country-level. Additionally, the application of generalized additive models (GAMs) and generalized additive mixed models (GAMMs) provides robust empirical tests of cohort categorizations applied in this and previous studies to estimate otherwise collinear effects. To illustrate the method, I derive and test the theory that generations will be differentiated in their patterns of participation based on the ascendancy of certain repertoires in the era of their political socialization.
Explanations of party competition and vote choice are commonly based on the Downsian view of politics: parties maximise votes by adopting positions on policy dimensions. However, recent research suggests that British voters choose parties based on evaluations of competence rather than on ideological position. This paper proposes a theoretical account which combines elements of the spatial model with the ‘issue ownership’ approach. Whereas the issue ownership theory has focused mainly on party competition, this paper examines the validity of the model from the perspective of both parties and voters, by testing its application to recent British general elections. Our findings suggest that as parties have converged ideologically, competence considerations have become more important than ideological position in British elections.
We investigate the effect of individual exposure to communism on support for democracy and capitalism. We examine whether this effect varies across different types of communism, at different periods of people's lives, in different countries, and across different types of individuals. To do so, we propose a modified approach to solving the APC problem that relies on (a) survey data from multiple countries (b) historically defined cohorts and (c) variation in the time-periods related to these cohorts across countries. We provide a series of robustness tests for the method, and show that results are not very sensitive to panel structure. We conclude that generally communism had an indoctrinating effect, with more exposure to communism resulting in more opposition to democracy and capitalism.
A rapidly-growing research agenda shared by scholars and applied policy analysts is beginning to explore three questions: when do elections meet standards of electoral integrity? When do they fail to do so? And what can be done to mitigate these problems? To address these issues, in this paper outlines the concept of electoral integrity, proposing a comprehensive and broad definition founded upon global norms and international conventions. argues that several sub-fields contribute towards the study of electoral integrity, although commonly fragmented at present, including (i) ; (ii) ; (iii) ; and (iv) . The emerging research agenda focused on electoral integrity, cutting across these conventional disciplinary boundaries, is characterized by its problem-oriented focus and global comparative framework, as well as by its use of pluralistic methods and analytical techniques. outlines the contribution of papers in this symposium. The conclusion summarizes the key features of this new research agenda studying electoral integrity.
Will the rising share of ethnic minorities in western societies spark a backlash or lead to greater acceptance of diversity? This paper examines this question through the prism of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), the most successful populist right party in British history. The paper contributes to work on contextual effects by arguing that ethnic levels and changes cross-pressure white opinion and voting. It argues that high levels of established ethnic minorities reduce opposition to immigration and support for UKIP among White Britons. Conversely, more rapid ethnic changes increase opposition to immigration and support for UKIP. Longitudinal data demonstrates that these effects are not produced by self-selection. The data further illustrate that with time, diversity levels increase their threat-reducing power while the threatening effects of ethnic change fade. Results suggest that the contextual effects literature needs to routinely unpack levels from changes. This also suggests that if the pace of immigration slows, immigration attitudes should soften and populist right voting decline.
Increasing politicization in EU member states about European issues can be expected to strengthen the impact of attitudes towards Europe on vote choice in European Parliament (EP) elections. At the same time this impact is likely to vary between voters and contexts as a function of political information. This study explores the role of political information in explaining individual and contextual heterogeneity in the degree of EU issue voting. Using a two-step hierarchical estimation procedure to explore both individual and contextual variation, we show that while EU issue voting in the 2009 EP elections is only slightly more pronounced among the politically sophisticated, it is clearly more extensive in contexts that provide higher levels of political information on European matters. ► EU issue voting in EP elections is a wide-spread phenomenon by 2009. ► We find evidence of individual and contextual variation in EU issue voting in the 2009 EP elections. ► EU issue voting is only slightly more pronounced among the politically sophisticated. ► EU issue voting is more extensive in contexts providing high levels of EU-related information.