Motivating the European Voter: Parties, Issues, and Campaigns
39 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 15 Sep 2010
Date Written: 2010
It is well-established that voters behave very differently in European Parliament (EP) elections compared to national elections. They are more likely to switch their allegiances to smaller opposition parties or even to abstain. The classic explanation is that these changing patterns of behavior are due to the fact that less is at stake in 'second-order' EP elections. While this second-order explanation aptly captures the primary characteristic of EP elections, it has often led to a conflation of three quite distinct motivations for changing behavior, namely sincere voting, strategic protest voting and arena-specific voting. By clearly distinguishing among different types of motivations driving second-order voting behavior, we are able to address the important question of when and why voters are more likely to rely on sincere, strategic and arena specific considerations in EP elections. We argue that the primary conditioning factors are located at two levels. At the individual-level, voters are differently motivated depending on which type of party they normally support. At the context-level, the level of politicization of the EU in the domestic debate shapes the degree of arena-specific voting. These propositions are tested in a multi-level analysis of voting behavior in 27 countries in the 2009 European Parliament elections. Our findings have important implications for understanding why voters change their behavior between different types of elections.
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