The European Voter: A Comparative Study of Modern Democracies

The European Voter: A Comparative Study of Modern Democracies

The European Voter: A Comparative Study of Modern Democracies

The European Voter: A Comparative Study of Modern Democracies

Synopsis

This book provides a systematic comparative analysis of how and why voting behaviour has changed in Europe in recent decades. It has been widely argued that radical changes have occurred in the how and why of voting behaviour in Europe as a result of changes in the structure of society, mostnotably the rise in material affluence and educational attainment, and the decline in religious observance and the size of the working class. But most tests of this proposition have been undertaken on single countries. This book, however, systematically tests the validity of this proposition acrossvarious European countries. The argument that social change has altered voting behaviour has been increasingly challenged on the grounds that it takes too little account of changes in the choices that are put before voters by the parties, such as the promises and proposals that are put forward at election time. This book,therefore, also assesses the relative explanatory power of claims that voting behaviour has changed because of changes in society against claims that it responds to changes in the offerings of political parties. And it is clear from the analyses reported in this book that contrary to the claims ofmuch of the extant literature, the latter argument appears better able to account for many of the patterns and changes in European voting behaviour, and thus the book constitutes an important challenge to much current academic orthodoxy. This is the first book to provide a systematic comparison of the long-term dynamics of the voting behaviour of individual voters across such a wide range of European countries, taking into account the dynamics of the choices put before voters by the parties and, for the first time, relating this tothe way voters behave. Comparative Politics is a series for students and teachers of political science that deals with contemporary issues in comparative government and politics. The General Editors are Max Kaase, Professor of Political Science, Vice President and Dean, School of Humanities and Social Science,International University Bremen; and Kenneth Newton, Professor of Comparative Politics, University of Southampton. The series is published in association with the European Consortium for Political Research.

Excerpt

The prehistory of this book project goes as far back as the ECPR research sessions in Rimini (Italy) in 1988. It was there and then that the International Committee for Research into Elections and Representative Democracy (ICORE) was founded. Its founding fathers were the study directors of the older national election studies programmes in Western Europe, particularly in Britain, Denmark, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, and Sweden. All but one of them are among the authors of this volume.

ICORE was founded with the purpose to promote cross-national research into electoral behaviour and representative democracy. We were particularly interested in the study of electoral change. As representatives of the oldest election studies in Europe we were very much aware that together we were sitting on a unique data treasure that was extremely suitable for that purpose. But we were also aware that there was no easy access to this goldmine, at least not when we wanted to use it for comparative purposes. The number of logistical problems was almost prohibitive for the use of the various national election studies in cross-national research. To mention only the most obvious one: for a number of studies written documentation, even the questionnaires, were only available in the original language and not in English, the modern lingua franca. In order to remove these logistical barriers ICORE started its activities by creating a European National Elections Database consisting of all the national election studies documented in English. As a start all available election studies data sets were collated at the ZA-EUROLAB, a Data Laboratory for Comparative Social Research of the Central Archive for Empirical Social Research at the University of Cologne.

At first we never had the intention to write a book on the basis of this wealth of data. Our only intention was to make these data easily accessible for secondary analysis to the international scholarly community. However, I clearly remember how two people simply could not understand this. One of them was Henry Valen. He told us in his characteristic profane language that it would be a shame not to write a comparative volume as part of the effort to create a European National Elections Database. The second one was Ekkehard Mochmann, the administrative director of the Central Archive. His encouragement and his hospitality enabling us to meet several times with all authors at the archive was invaluable for this project. The development of the dataset for this book was supported by the Improving Human Potential (IHP) programme—Access to Research Infrastructures (ARI) Activity of the European Commission.

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