Research In Progress

Working Papers

New Wine in Old Bottles: Explaining Party Competition Along the Socio-Cultural Dimension in Europe. (with Jan Rovny) [PDF]

In Europe, non-economic political issues are seen as secondary, but significant, sources of political competition. There is uncertainty, however, about the sources of its varying significance in politics. This paper addresses the extent to which this ‘other’ dimension frames political conflict across western Europe. Using expert surveys and country-level data, we first explore the contemporary content of the non-economic dimension. We find evidence of variance in the importance of this dimension in different party systems, which we explain through the role of historical religious conflict. Despite the rise of new cultural issues, historical religious divides provide strikingly powerful predictors of the significance of the socio-cultural dimension in contemporary political competition of western Europe.

Worlds of Welfare and Multidimensional Party Competition in Europe. (with Jan Rovny) Forthcoming in Electoral Realignments and Welfare State Transformations in Europe. eds. Philip Manow and Bruno Palier, Oxford University Press. [PDF]

This paper explains the relationship between the four European worlds of welfare/political economy (Scandinavian, Continental, Southern, and Liberal) and multidimensional party competition. We examine if a country’s political economy systematically affects the relationship between party positions on economic and cultural politics. Our expectation is that Southern political economies facilitate increased cultural competition, whereas Nordic welfare states produce party systems defined by economic politics. The Continental welfare states stand between the two extremes. We test our argument with the most recent (2014) waves of data from the Chapel Hill Expert Survey (CHES) and the European Elections Studies (EES). Our analysis suggests different political opportunity structures, and consequently different behavior of populist challenger parties of Western Europe. Here, the North/South divisions again correlate with the flavors of populism.

(Dis)loyal party members as voters. (with Ann-Kristin Kölln) [PDF]

Party membership is one of the strongest behavioural and attitudinal outlets of political participation in democracies. Members make a conscious decision to support a specific political party and its ideological programme with their money, time and effort. Cost-benefit analyses of party membership therefore often assume that party members will also be safe voters, which increases the benefit of members to parties (Scarrow 1994, 2015). This paper assesses the empirical base for this assumption and finds that between 3 and 16 per cent of European party members cast a defecting vote in the last election. We argue that internal disagreement and external pressure can each bring about disloyal voting. Programmatic and personnel disagreement with members’ own party loosens up existing loyalty patterns while cross-party pressures on specific and contentious issues create the opportunity structure for a short-term defection to another party. We support our argument with empirical results derived from the 2015 Swedish Party Membership Survey that overcomes common data limitations on party members as units of observation. The results show that both internal push and external pull-factors are associated with higher probabilities of defection, yet dissatisfaction with the leadership stands out as the strongest predictor of defection. These findings emphasize the potential importance of party leadership contests. They also mean that the expectation of party members as ‘safe’ voters needs some qualification. Finally, our analysis sheds additional light on voter volatility, and reasons for vote switching within the broader population of party identifiers.

Multidimensional Congruence and European Parliament Vote Switching. (with Ryan Bakker and Seth Jolly) [PDF]

Does ideological incongruence hurt parties in elections? Research on the representa- tional relationship between parties and voters suggests that ideological congruence can boost a party’s electoral prospects. However, while the mechanism is at the individual- level, most of the literature focuses on the party-level. In this paper, we shift the focus to individuals, develop a set of hypotheses based on a multidimensional conception of party-voter congruence, and examine the electoral consequences of these varying congruence levels in the 2014 EP elections. Consistent with our expectations, we find that ideological incongruence is a significant factor in voting behavior in the European Parliament elections.

Is Social Left/Right Cross-Nationally Comparable in European Parties? (with Ryan Bakker and Seth Jolly) [PDF]

Using survey vignettes and scaling techniques, we estimate a common social left/right dimension for political parties across the member states of the European Union. Pre- vious research shows that economic left/right travels well across the EU, meaning that the placements of parties on that dimension are cross-nationally comparable; how- ever, the social dimension is more complex, with different issues forming the core of the social dimension in different countries. The 2014 wave of the Chapel Hill Expert Survey includes anchoring vignettes which we use as “bridge votes” to place parties from different countries on a common social left/right dimension. We estimate the dimension using the “blackbox” technique. The resulting scale offers a cross-nationally comparable interval-level measure of a party’s social left/right ideological position.