Political Behavior

, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 767–789 | Cite as

Cross-National Yardstick Comparisons: A Choice Experiment on a Forgotten Voter Heuristic

  • Kasper M. HansenEmail author
  • Asmus L. Olsen
  • Mickael Bech
Original Paper


Comparing performance between countries is both a theoretically and intuitively useful yardstick for voters. Cross-national comparisons provide voters with heuristics that are less cognitively demanding, less ambiguous, and less uncertain than solely national, absolute performance measurements. We test this proposition using a unique, choice experiment embedded in the 2011 Danish National Election Study. This design allows to contrast cross-national comparisons with more traditional national sociotropic and egotropic concerns. The findings suggest that voters are strongly influenced by cross-national performance comparisons—even when accounting for classic national sociotropic and egotropic items. Specifically, voters respond strongly to how the prospective wealth of Denmark evolves relative to the neighboring Sweden. Interestingly, voters are more negative in their response to cross-national losses compared to their positive response to cross-national gains—indicating a negativity bias in voters’ preferences.


Yardstick comparison Social comparison Economic voting Conjoint experiment Discrete choice experiment 



We would like to thank the reviewers and editors for their comments. Previous versions were presented at the Midwest Political Science Association Annual Conference. April, 2012, a seminar at the Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen, October 2012 and, a seminar at the Department of Political Science, Aarhus University, November 2011. We thank the participants for valuable comments. A special thank goes to Michael Lewis-Beck, Oliver James, Fabrizio Gilardi, and Søren Serritzlew for their valuable input to earlier versions of the manuscript. Any remaining errors are our responsibility alone.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kasper M. Hansen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Asmus L. Olsen
    • 1
  • Mickael Bech
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen KDenmark
  2. 2.Department of Business and EconomicsUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdenseDenmark

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