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Explaining Left-Right Party Congruence across European Party Systems:

Ana Belchior
Centro de Investigação e Estudos de Sociologia – CIES-IUL
Ana Belchior
Centro de Investigação e Estudos de Sociologia – CIES-IUL
Open Panel

Abstract

Despite the emergence of numerous studies of democratic representation in recent decades, there is insufficient research about some key areas. In fact, most work in this field is whether essentially focused on theoretical matters or, in the case of empirical studies, largely descriptive. Some of these empirical studies comparatively analyze the levels of congruence among European political parties (Barnes, 1977; Converse and Pierce, 1986; Esaiasson and Holmberg, 1996; Holmberg, 1989; Miller et al., 1999, except for the chapter by Wessels; Schmitt and Thomassen, 1999; Valen and Narud, 2007; and Freire and Belchior, forthcoming). A few works focus on causality (Huber and Powell, 1994; Dalton, 1985; Wessels, 1999; and Holmberg, 2000), but as far as we are aware, none attempt a comprehensive theory about what causes higher or lower levels of congruence between parties or party leaders and their voters. This paper contributes to filling this gap by testing whether three theoretical models can explain left-right congruence among European parties. These models explore causality at the micro or individual level (the characteristics of voters and MPs), the meso level (party characteristics), and the macro or system level (party system and institutional characteristics). Based on data from the PIREDEU project, the study examines the party systems of the 27 countries of the European Union with reference to the 2009 European Parliament elections. The findings reveal that MP-voter congruence is best explained at the party level and by key MP characteristics.