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Political Systems and Electoral Behavior: a Review of Internationally Comparative Multilevel Research

Politische Systeme und Wählerverhalten: eine Diskussion der international vergleichenden Mehrebenenforschung

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Abstract

A significant body of internationally comparative research has been accumulated over the past decade that seeks a better understanding of electoral behavior by combining survey data on voters with system-level data on their countries in complex multilevel designs. The current paper offers a state-of-the-art review of this rapidly evolving landscape of research, which thus far has been mainly guided by two questions: (i) Which conditions promote voter turnout that is high and more egalitarian, thus giving citizens an equal say in politics? And (ii) Which conditions promote electoral choices that are in line with voters’ own interests, thus enhancing the role of elections as instruments for holding governments to account? While some studies primarily help to consolidate the field of comparative electoral behavior by taking more appropriate methodological approaches, others demonstrate with unprecedented clarity how individuals’ voting behavior is systematically moderated by institutional as well as socioeconomic features of country contexts. Whether and how you select among electoral candidates depends critically on where you live—this is the powerful message of cross-national multilevel research on voting behavior. By identifying important sources of heterogeneity in voters’ decision-making, this line of research profoundly questions the homogeneity assumption that has been a hallmark of electoral studies for decades.

Zusammenfassung

In den letzten zehn Jahren wurde eine beträchtliche Anzahl international vergleichender Studien vorgelegt, die versuchen, durch komplexe Mehrebenendesigns, welche Daten aus Bevölkerungsumfragen mit Systemattributen auf Länderebene kombinieren, ein besseres Verständnis des Wählerverhaltens zu erreichen. Der Aufsatz stellt diese sich rasch entwickelnde Forschungslandschaft dar und diskutiert ihre Erträge. Bislang standen zwei Fragen bei dieser Forschung im Vordergrund: Welche Bedingungen fördern eine hohe und egalitäre, die Gleichheit politischer Mitsprache sichernde Wahlbeteiligung? Welche Bedingungen begünstigen Wahlentscheidungen, die mit den Interessen der Wähler in Einklang stehen, und stärken dadurch die Rolle von Wahlen als Instrument, um die Verantwortlichkeit von Parteien und Regierungen gegenüber den Wählern zu gewährleisten? Während einige Studien durch verbesserte methodische Ansätze in erster Linie zur Konsolidierung der international vergleichenden Wahlforschung beigetragen haben, zeigen andere mit größerer Klarheit als frühere Untersuchungen, wie das individuelle Entscheidungsverhalten bei Wahlen systematisch durch institutionelle sowie sozioökonomische Merkmale von Länderkontexten beeinflusst wird. Ob und wie man wählt, hängt entscheidend davon ab, wo man lebt – dies ist die starke Botschaft der international vergleichenden Mehrebenenforschung zum Wählerverhalten. Indem sie wichtige Quellen der Heterogenität in der Entscheidungsfindung der Wähler identifiziert, stellt sie die Homogenitätsannahme infrage, die seit Jahrzehnten ein Kennzeichnen von Wahlstudien gewesen ist.

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Notes

  1. All studies discussed in the next two sections are based on CSES data unless explicitly stated otherwise.

  2. Some studies transform this random slope problem into a random intercept problem by using as dependent variables not vote choice itself, but marker variables that indicate how it relates to the predictor of interest (see, e. g., Singh 2010).

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Acknowledgements

The author is grateful to Staffan Kumlin and the editors for helpful comments on a draft version of this paper, and to Almire Brahimi, Sascha Huber, Steve Quinlan, Isabelle Rohr, Jan Schilpp, and Franziska Scholl for their advice and support in identifying the relevant literature.

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Schmitt-Beck, R. Political Systems and Electoral Behavior: a Review of Internationally Comparative Multilevel Research. Köln Z Soziol 71 (Suppl 1), 343–373 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11577-019-00608-8

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