Does it Pay Off? The Effects of Party Leadership Elections on Parties’ Trustworthiness and Their Appeal to Voters
In the last few decades, parties in established democracies have increasingly opened up the selection of their party leaders to all party members. Although this democratization cannot be found in all countries, it nevertheless constitutes a clear trend over time (Quinn, 2010 ; Cross & Katz, 2013 ; Pilet & Cross, 2014 ; Sandri, Seddone & Venturino, 2015).
So far, research has mainly focused on the drivers for these changes, taking into account both internal factors (reducing power of middle-level elites in the party) and external factors (making the party attractive again for voters and (potential) members) (Lisi, 2010 ; Wauters, 2014 ; Gauja, 2016).
Other studies have focused on the effects of party leadership elections. These effects include, amongst others, party responsiveness (Lehrer, 2012), party leader survival (Ennser-Jedenastik & Schumacher, 2015), party leader representativeness (Wauters & Pilet, 2015 ; O’Brien, 2015) and competitiveness of leadership contests (Kenig, 2009). But apart from research on electoral performance that found only short-term effects (Pedersen & Schumacher, 2015), the potential effects of the external arguments leading to the introduction of leadership elections have been largely neglected in the literature.
Therefore, we investigate in this paper whether parties that select their party leaders inclusively (by allowing all party members to vote) exhibit higher levels of trustworthiness, and are more attractive to voters. We operationalize the latter by investigating voters’ willingness to (1) vote for these parties and (2) to become a member of these parties. We expect inclusive candidate selection procedures to affect parties’ trustworthiness and attractiveness positively. This expectation is in line with the findings of Close, Kelbel and van Haute (2017) who show that a large share of the electorate demands more inclusive selection procedures, as they are perceived as fairer. Indeed, apart from performance predictors, also the selection procedures themselves might impact parties’ trustworthiness and attractiveness. Rather than focussing on voters’ evaluations of parties in general (Shomer, Put & Gedalya-Lavy, 2017), we investigate whether individual parties benefit from organising inclusive leadership contests. To that end, we will conduct an experimental study with fictional parties that allows us to control for several intervening variables, such as media attention, other events happening at the same time, etc.