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Issue Agendas and the Power of Programmatic and Affective Expression in Elections

Calvin Mouw
University of Illinois at Springfield
Calvin Mouw
University of Illinois at Springfield
Open Panel

Abstract

Differentiating between affective and cognitive-based voting models, my paper examines the factors that explain the relative power of programmatic expression in electoral outcomes. Traditionally, political scientists have offered institution based explanations as the primary determinant; some electoral and representative systems are structured more than others to enhance programmatic behavior. In the context of representation in post-Communist party systems, Kitschelt and his colleagues offer a second explanation, arguing that the diversity between programmatic and clientele interest intermediation is best explained by examining the political-economic arrangements that serve to enhance or suppress the ideological conflicts within party systems. Using a different theoretical approach based on the structure of affect, I offer an explanation that focuses on the content of political agendas and the way individuals respond to different types of issue stimuli. Affective evaluations generally arise from issues that generate an emotive appraisal of an object or event that has application to an individual’s well-being; cognitive-based programmatic or policy-based sentiments are more likely to follow stimuli that carry instrumental value. Consequently, as priming changes the nature of the agenda from that which is experiential to instrumental, the relative distribution of affective to programmatic expression changes. I concentrate on the patterns of voting in three Central and East European democracies, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Poland. Using data from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES), I find that the conditions that structure affect serve as the most important factor in explaining the relative power of vote forms.