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Political Behaviour/Sociology

F14(b) - Voters in Context: Evidence from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) Project

Date: Jun 5 | Time: 03:45pm to 05:15pm | Location: SWING 208

Chair/Président/Présidente : André Blais (Université de Montréal)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Ruth Dassonneville (Université de Montréal)

Session Abstract: In this panel, leading scholars in the comparative study of elections and voting behaviour. All papers make use of the data of the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) project, that enters its 25th year. The papers explore how institutions condition turnout, satisfaction with democracy, negative partisanship and the role of leaders on the vote.

Down Again? Electoral Turnout and the Global Financial Crisis in OECD Democracies: Jack Vowles (Victoria University of Wellington), Tim Hellwig (Indiana University), Yesola Kweon (Utah State University)
Abstract: Across countries continuously democratic since 1970, after apparently flattening out in the first few elections held in the 21st century, electoral turnout took another step downwards after the global financial crisis of 2008 (Vowles 2018). Early analysis of survey data from multiple elections between 2002 and 2010 in 10 countries in Asia, Europe, Latin America and Oceania suggests that this turnout decline was most concentrated among the most economically vulnerable (Karp and Milazzo 2016). Other research with data from 2006 to 2012 from 28 European countries finds that the decline was most apparent among the highly educated (Hausermann, Kurer, and Wuest 2017). Using CSES data from a selection of OECD countries both in Europe and outside it, up to 2016, we investigate these conflicting findings and propose an alternative contextual explanation. We test the hypothesis that the turnout response will be shaped by the depth of the crisis and the extent of recovery, conditioned by the policy positions taken by political parties. We also discuss discuss case selection, data quality, and the relevant time period likely required to make valid inferences.


Citizens' Recipes for Satisfaction with Democracy: Richard Nadeau (Université de Montréal), Jean-François Daoust (McGill University)
Abstract: Numerous studies have shown that economic and political considerations are important in determining citizens’ level of satisfaction with their democratic system. But research analyzing which criteria prevail in which contexts is still limited. In this paper, we examine under what conditions citizens chiefly rely on economic or political considerations in assessing the performance of their democratic institutions. Using CSES datasets covering 72 elections in 45 unique countries from 1996 to 2015, we show that the relative weight of economic and political criteria in citizens’ assessments of their democratic regime is a function of their nation’s affluence. In poorer countries, citizens mostly rely on the economy to assess their level of satisfaction with democracy. In richer societies, political considerations play a prominent role in voters’ evaluations. Our results are thus crucial to understand why citizens’ recipes for satisfaction for democracy vary across time and space.

Us vs. Them: Do the Rules of the Game Encourage Negative Partisanship?: Cameron D. Anderson (Western University), R. Michael McGregor (Ryerson University), Laura B. Stephenson (Western University)
Abstract: Party identification is a well-documented force in political behaviour.  We know that the party one identifies with can influence far more than just vote choice – shaping opinions, attitudes, preferences and other behaviours.  However, the vast majority of work that accounts for partisanship only considers it as a positive attachment, rather than also addressing the possibility that a partisan identity may be a negative affective orientation towards a particular party.  Recent work has shown that negative feelings towards a party have important effects, such as reinforcing partisan leanings or directing strategic behaviour (Medeiros and Noel 2014; McGregor et al. 2015; Caruana et al. 2015).  This study builds upon this line of work by taking a step back and exploring whether there are institutional factors that contribute to the presence of negative affective orientations towards parties.  Using data from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems, we examine the influence of electoral system components and test whether or not the influence of the institutional context is moderated by political sophistication.  By considering negative, rather than only positive feelings towards parties, this paper contributes to our understanding of the role of affect in explaining voting behaviour and adds to our knowledge of the impact that country-level institutional factors can have upon the relationship between voters and parties.

Leader or Party? Evaluating the Personalization of Politics Thesis, 1996-2016: Ian McAllister (Australian National University), Stephen Quinlan (GESIS Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences)
Abstract: It has become almost a political science truism that elections have become more personalized. With the expansion of the visual media, leaders’ personalities have become important for voters and parties alike. Recent studies, however, have come to mixed conclusions about whether leaders have become electorally more important. In testing the personalization politics thesis empirically, studies have been stymied by frequent changes of leader, so that overtime studies are unable to compare like-with-like. In this paper, we overcome this methodological problem by relating voters’ evaluations of their leaders to their evaluations of the parties, by using 20-years of data from Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) covering 150 elections across 40 different countries. The research is the first test of the personalization thesis cross-nationally that takes account of leader changes. The results have implications for how we understand the electoral significance of leadership in national elections.