Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

Anchoring the Portuguese Voter: Panel Dynamics in a Newer Electorate

Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

Anchoring the Portuguese Voter: Panel Dynamics in a Newer Electorate

Article excerpt


While Portuguese democracy is no longer so new, its national postelection surveys are, with the first in 2002. On the vital question of what provides the voter a social-psychological anchor, initial evidence gave the nod to party identification over ideological identification. However, party identification was poorly measured, data were cross-sectional, and the models single equation. Fortunately, panel studies are now available for the 2005 legislative and the 2006 presidential elections. Estimating dynamic, multi-equation models with two-stage, instrumental variable regression procedures establishes the preeminence of ideologically driven voting. Furthermore, ideological identification appears composed of a unique pre-democratic component, in addition to the more usual social, moral, and economic elements.


party identification, ideology, panel studies, voting behavior, Portugal

In democracies everywhere, there is generally some longterm force that anchors the electorate, giving the individual voter a "standing decision" to rely on (Key 1966). In the United States, party identification serves as that behavioral anchor (Campbell et al. 1960; Lewis-Beck et al. 2008). The party identification model has been exported to Western Europe, with mixed results (Budge, Crewe, and Farlie 1976; Dalton, Flanagan, and Beck 1984; Franklin, Mackie, and Valen 1992). The debate in France has been especially sharp, with some arguing that the French electorate binds itself through party identification, others through ideological identification. (On the former view, see Converse and Pierce 1986; Pierce 1995; Evans 2004. On the latter view, see Fleury and Lewis-Beck 1993; Haegel 1990; Mayer 1997.) Certainly, the power of ideology has been proposed for other established Western European democracies as well. (For a general treatment, see the classic, Inglehart and Klingemann 1976.) The Dutch electorate, in particular, seems to have ideological identification as their exclusive anchor (van der Eijk and Niemöller 1983, 1987, 1994).

But what of the newer democracies of Western Europe-Spain and Portugal? Are such long-term forces operative? If so, does ideology count for more than party, or vice versa? With respect to Spain, a growing body of work suggests the overwhelming role of leftright ideology as an electoral anchor (Calvo and Montero 2002; Lancaster and Lewis-Beck 1986; Maravall and Przeworski 2001; Torcal and Medina 2002). What about Portugal, the object of study here? Prevailing opinion holds that party dominates ideology as an electoral anchor. Portugal has a semi-presidential Constitution and the electorate directly elects the President as well as the Parliament's deputies. The same four parties have dominated the electoral scene since 1974, together winning over 90 percent of the votes in all legislative national elections save one (1985), despite the fact that Portugal has employed a proportional representation electoral system (d'Hondt method).

Below this surface pattern of stability, however, there has been a fair amount of movement. Between 1987 and 2005 there was a shift toward fewer and larger parties, a trend reversed in 2009. On average between 1987 and 2005 the two main parties polled over 80 percent of the vote. But in 2009 the main parties-on the left the PS (Partido Socialista) and on the right the PSD (Partido Social Democrata)-gathered only 66 percent of the vote. By way of contrast, in 2009 the two smaller long-standing parties-on the left the Communists (Partido Comunista Português) and on the right the CDS (Centro Democrático Social)-also halted their apparent decline. Furthermore, a new party of the left, the Bloco de Esquerda, with its first elected MPs in 1999, has become a fully consolidated party on the left, winning 9.9 percent of the voters in the 2009 election. As well, aggregate levels of party identification have dropped substantially, while those of ideological identification have not. …

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