Comparative European Politics

, Volume 13, Issue 6, pp 636–655 | Cite as

How to analyze second-order election effects? A refined second-order election model

  • Arjan H Schakel
Original Article


The second-order election (SOE) model assumes that voters in subordinate elections tend to turn out in lower numbers and support opposition, small and new parties to the detriment of parties in national government. This model has been successfully applied to European and subnational elections taking place in Western Europe but it fares far less well in explaining electoral outcomes in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). I refine the model by differentiating between six party types (large and small government and opposition parties and new and no-seat parties) and by introducing the state of the economy (economic growth, inflation and unemployment) as explanatory variable instead of time elapsed between first- and second-order elections. An analysis on 488 regional elections taking place in 6 CEE countries shows that second-order effects relate to the state of the economy that has a different impact depending on party type. These results strongly suggest that regional elections in CEE are second-order but in order to be able to trace SOE effects the SOE model needs to be refined.


second-order election regional election Central and Eastern Europe 



Previous versions of this article have been presented at the 1st European Conference on Comparative Electoral Research (1–3 December 2011, Sofia, Bulgaria) and at the 19th International Conference of Europeanists (22–24 March 2012, Boston, USA). I wish to thank the discussants for their comments. Special thanks go to Charlie Jeffery with whom I have extensively discussed the conceptual history of the second-order model and the merits of the second-order election model when applied to regional elections. I am very grateful to Ivan Kopric for help in obtaining regional and national election data for Croatia. I am greatly indebted to Gabór Dobos and Istvan Szekely who provided support in classifying parties, identifying electoral alliances and cleaning up data for, respectively, Hungarian and Romanian elections. The election data was collected with financial support by the British Academy through a Newton Fellowship for 2009–2011 which was spent at the Territorial Politics Group at the University of Edinburgh.


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arjan H Schakel
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceMaastricht UniversityMaastrichtThe Netherlands

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