Explaining Elections in Singapore: Dominant Party Resilience and Valence Politics

50 Pages Posted: 16 Jan 2017 Last revised: 9 Feb 2018

See all articles by Steven Oliver

Steven Oliver

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Yale-NUS College

Kai Ostwald

University of British Columbia (UBC)

Date Written: February 9, 2018

Abstract

The People's Action Party (PAP) of Singapore is one of the world's longest ruling dominant parties, having won every general election since the country's independence in 1965. Why do Singaporeans consistently vote for the PAP, contrary to the expectations of theories of democratization? We argue that valence considerations---specifically, perceptions of party credibility---are the dominant factor in the voting behavior of Singapore's electorate and a critical piece to the puzzle of the PAP's resilience. Furthermore, we argue that the primacy of valence politics arose in part by design, as the PAP has used its control of Singapore's high-capacity state to reshape society and thereby reshape voter preferences towards its comparative advantages. We use a multi-methods approach to demonstrate evidence in support of our argument through a within-case, historical analysis; a qualitative analysis of contemporary party competition and voter behavior; and a comprehensive quantitative analysis of the 2011 and 2015 general elections. Ultimately, our findings suggest that a focus on valence politics can increase the resilience of dominant parties, but that such a strategy also faces natural limits to the advantages it confers.

Keywords: Singapore, Elections, Electoral Competition, Political Parties, Voters, Voting Behaviour, Valence Politics, Dominant Party, Resilience

Suggested Citation

Oliver, Steven and Ostwald, Kai, Explaining Elections in Singapore: Dominant Party Resilience and Valence Politics (February 9, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2899285 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2899285

Steven Oliver (Contact Author)

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Yale-NUS College ( email )

10 College Avenue West #01-101
Singapore, 138609
Singapore

Kai Ostwald

University of British Columbia (UBC) ( email )

1855 West Mall
Vancouver, British Columbia BC V6T 1Z4
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://www.kaiostwald.me

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