The spatial character of Russia’s new democracy
To date, virtually all research on Russian elections, beginning in 1991, have used tools and methodological approaches akin to voting research from the 1950s and 1960s. Researchers have relied either on public opinion polls that try to tease out correlations between a standard menu of socio-economic characteristics, attitudes about candidates, and self-reports of voting history; or on journalistic assessments of aggregate election returns, coupled with substantive expertise of Russian politics. Here, then, we try to gain an understanding of those elections in more contemporary theoretical terms — in terms of the spatial analysis of elections and voting. Although our analysis relies on a less-than-optimal source of data — election returns aggregated up to the level of individual rayons (countries) — we are able to draw a spatial map of those elections that is not too dissimilar from what others infer using less explicit methodologies. Specifically, we find that throughout the 1991–1996 period, a single issue — reform — has and continues to dominate the electorate’s responses to candidates and parties. On the other hand, we find little evidence of the emergence of “nationalism” as an issue, but conclude that to the extent we can detect this issue in the 1996 presidential contest, one candidate, General Alexander Lebed, did succeed in differentiating himself from other nationalist candidates (most notably, Vladimir Zhirinovski) without abandoning the reformist camp. In general, then, this preliminary analysis suggests that the same tools used elsewhere to uncover the spatial map of elections and the connection between basic and actionable issues (individual level thermometer score rankings of candidates and parties) can be applied to Russia with the promise of coherent, understandable results.
KeywordsPresidential Election Vote Share Candidate Position Strategic Vote Parliamentary Election
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