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THE ROLE OF POLITICAL INFORMATION IN "ATTITUDE CONGRUENT" ELECTORAL DECISIONS

Sebastian Adrian Popa
Universität Mannheim
Sebastian Adrian Popa
Universität Mannheim
Open Panel

Abstract

In the field of voting behavior research substantial attention has been paid to the relation between information and the capacity of individuals to make political decisions that are in their own best interest. One key question is whether more informed voters are, as we might naively expect, better suited for choosing the candidate/party that is in some sense right for them, or, on the contrary, information is not that important in the electoral decision-making processes (Bartels 1996; Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996; Downs 1957; Lupia 1994; Lupia and McCubbins 1998; .Moore 1987; Popkin 1994; Zaller 2004;). The purpose of this paper will be to further investigate the relationship between political information and what I will call "attitude-congruent" voting - i.e., voting for the party/candidate that best matches one''s own existing policy attitudes. The key question to be answered is if more politically informed voters are indeed universally better equipped to make decisions that accord with their policy preferences, or if political information is only required to cast an "attitude congruent" vote under some circumstances but not others. Even if at a first glance the answer to the initial research question seems to be clear (. Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996; Sekhon 2004; Toka 2004; Oscarsson 2007; Hansen 2009; Lau and Redlawsk 1997; Bartles 1996; Althaus 1998), the original component of my research question is to see whether this tends to be the case across a wide range of democratic systems and not only in a specific country. Thus I will test the relation between political information and "attitude congruent" voting using the institutional diversity and the different informational environments of the European Union. The data used for the statistical analysis comes from the European Election Survey 2009. Besides allowing me to test if the relation holds across a large number of democratic system will, this dataset will also allow me to test how contextual factors (e.g. party system characteristics, electoral system characteristics) mediate the relation between political information and attitude congruent electoral decisions.