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Candidate- and party-centred voting cues in a multi-party setting: the case of Finland

Peter Söderlund
Åbo Akademi
Peter Söderlund
Åbo Akademi
Open Panel

Abstract

Leadership and candidate traits are considered to have become more and more important over the recent decades, serving as strong influences on voting behavior in proportional parliamentary electoral systems, let alone majoritarian voting systems with single-member districts. Even though political scientist must be careful not overestimate the impact of personalization of politics on voting behavior, there are a considerable amount of voters who are affected by perceptions of candidate personality, image and competence. This paper will examine voters who use different kinds of decision cues, or heuristics, in the electoral choice process. Two dimensions of voter reasoning are of particular interest: party-centered and candidate-centered voting cues. Voting behavior in Finland is examined.The Finnish electoral system is interesting since it has strong personalistic elements: voters formally cast ballots for candidates and thus the preferential voting system provides individual candidates incentives to run personal campaigns at the district level. Longitudinal data suggest that individual candidates have become more and more important in Finnish electoral politics over the past decades. In 2007, 51 per cent considered that the candidate was more important than the party for their voting choice. Voters’ use of decision-making cues are derived from respondent self-assessments in the 2007 Finnish National Election Study. A series of multiple-response survey items tapping what influenced their choice of party (12 items) and choice of candidate (16 items) were asked. In the empirical part, the first aim is to determine the extent of candidate-centered voting in Finland. Second, the relationship between political sophistication and candidate-centered considerations will be examined. Third, this paper will explore differences in voting behavior between party- and candidate-centered voters by using several indicators. Voting behavior refers here to the extent of party switching between elections and uncertainty in the electoral choice process.