Not Always Second Order: Subnational Elections, National-Level Vote Intentions, and Volatility Spillovers in a Multilevel Electoral System
Electoral Studies, Vol. 31, No. 1, pp. 170-183
31 Pages Posted: 7 Oct 2011 Last revised: 4 Mar 2012
Date Written: October 7, 2011
The widespread second-order view on subnational elections leaves little room for the idea that subnational election campaigns matter for national-level electoral preferences. I challenge this perspective and explore the context-conditional role of subnational election campaigns for national-level vote intentions in multilevel systems. Campaigns direct citizens' attention to the political and economic fundamentals that determine their electoral preferences. Subnational election campaigns and the major campaign issues receive nationwide media coverage. This induces all citizens in a country to evaluate parties at the national level even if they themselves are not eligible to vote in the upcoming subnational election. Thereby, subnational election campaigns may lead to a reduction in the uncertainty of voters' national-level electoral preferences throughout the country, which is reflected by a decrease in the volatility of national-level vote intentions. I explore weekly vote intention data from Germany (1992-2007) within a conditional volatility model. Subnational elections reduce uncertainty in nationwide federal-level vote intentions for major parties. However, patterns of incumbency and coalitional shifts moderate this volatility-reducing effect.
Keywords: elections, multilevel systems, vote intentions, volatility spillovers
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