ESRA 2019 Draft Programme at a Glance

Public opinion and electoral politics in an era of political discontent 4

Session Organisers Dr Roula Nezi (GESIS-Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences)
Dr Theofanis Exadaktylos (University of Surrey)
TimeFriday 19th July, 13:00 - 14:00
Room D26

Over the past nine years the European Union has faced a series of social and political challenges that affected citizens’ political behaviour, political attitudes, and party systems. The European Union in particular, but also non-EU member states, confronted a series of events such as the economic crisis and the refugee crisis, which, coupled with the prominence of austerity politics, have given rise to unpredicted political and electoral outcomes such as the rise of populist parties - both from the right and the left of the ideological spectrum - the rise of authoritarian politics, the rise of political forces questioning the future of European integration as well as the overhaul of traditional parties.

These phenomena give rise to important questions for scholars working in the area of public opinion and elections. Can the existing theories of electoral choice explain the surprising electoral outcomes witnessed in many countries?  What is the role of emotions in political behaviour? Are the recent electoral shocks a result of a crisis of confidence and trust facing mainstream political parties and the rising disconnect of citizens? Is the growing support for populist parties rooted in austerity politics or is based on changes in peoples’ values and emotions?

This panel welcomes papers on a wide range of topics related to public opinion, elections, voting behaviour, and election forecasting such as:

voter turn out
political participation and pathways to engagement 
vote for populist parties
authoritarian attitudes and values
emotions and appraisals

We welcome papers using single case studies but we especially encourage comparative/longitudinal studies. Proposals should encourage the conference’s main theme “survey research in the changing data environment”. We also welcome papers that propose new theoretical approaches in the study of public opinion and elections and are empirically or methodologically innovative.

Keywords: public opinion, electoral politics, political participation, values, survey research

Social Structure, Individual Values and the Political Preferences of the Mass Public.

Dr Eva H. Önnudóttir (Associate Professor) - Presenting Author
Dr Agnar Freyr Helgason (Post-doctoral researcher)
Dr Hulda Þórisdóttir (Associate Professor)
Professor Ólafur Þ. Harðarson (Professor)

This is an abstract of a chapter the authors are working on in a book titled 'Politics Transformed? Change, Fluctuations and Stability in Iceland in the Aftermath of the Great Recession'. We hope that this will fit into your session.

What issues and values define the political dimensionality of Icelandic voters? What are the primary socio-structural determinants of different preference configurations? Historically, Icelandic politics have been structured around the left-right dimension, as well as an urban-rural dimension, which has, for the most part coincided with attitudes towards globalisation and European integration. In this chapter, we set out to map the political space of Icelandic voters and, in particular, whether the Great Recession increased the salience of a socio-economic dimension vis-à-vis alternative issues and if it affected the more fundamental value structure of voters. Furthermore, we will analyse whether and how anti-establishment sentiments have evolved during this time, focusing both on a populist right (i.e. anti-immigration) and a populist left (i.e. anti-establishment, both political and financial). This part of the project will involve compiling and analysing data on the political attitudes of Icelandic voters from ICENES, ESS, EVS, and ISSP. The primary means of analysis will involve employing factor analysis to evaluate the dimensionality of the issue space among Icelandic voters over time and if (and how) the Great Recession affected the configuration of individual level preferences.

From Support for Redistribution to Actual Redistribution: The Public Opinion-policy Link

Mr Xavier Romero-Vidal (Leuphana Universität Lüneburg) - Presenting Author
Dr Steven Van Hauwaert (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz)

The extent to which governments respond to public opinion has been at the heart of a vivid scholarly debate over the past decade. While some research suggests that governments respond to changes in mass preferences, an increasing number of scholars claim that governments either disregard public opinion in general or are only influenced by the opinion of the wealthiest segments of the population. Given the central role of redistribution in European politics, this paper examines whether governmental redistributive policies respond to public opinion demands. We contribute to this debate by using a time-series cross-sectional analysis of data on aggregate redistributive preferences from aeven advanced democracies (1980s-2017). We rely on a large dataset of survey data to estimate country-year measures of support for redistribution among different population groups. This approach does not only allow us to measure possible mismatches between public opinion and policy output but also to assess which income groups influence government action. In particular, we measure different preferences across income groups, namely between the wealthy and the poor. The results shed light on the influence of group preferences on policy and allow for a critical evaluation governmental responsiveness to public demands.

Explaining Individual Differences in the Costs of Voting

Dr Andrés Santana (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) - Presenting Author
Professor Susana Aguilar (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)

A more profound analysis of the variables in the calculus of voting equation is needed to improve our knowledge on electoral behaviour. We endogenize the costs of voting (C), drawing the empirical evidence from the MEDW (Making Electoral Democracy Work) database, which contains information on C and its potential determinants for the national elections of France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, and Canada. We test whether C is affected by factors related to informational costs, the costs of the act of voting, and the ex-ante rationalization of C. All three groups of factors have a statistical and substantive effect. C falls with party identification, education, union membership, years living in the region, interest in politics and the importance attributed to elections, while it is higher for women and for those living in rural areas. Age shows a curvilinear relationship, initially reducing C and then increasing it.