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2021 Conference of the ECPR Standing Group on Politics and Gender

Party, Leader or Local Candidate? Dissecting the Populist Vote in Finland

Elina Kestilä-Kekkonen
Tampere University
Elina Kestilä-Kekkonen
Tampere University
Peter Söderlund
Åbo Akademi

Strong and charismatic leadership has often been considered a mobilizing factor for populist anti-establishment parties, or at least a catalyst for their success. But vote choice may also be shaped by positive assessments of the party itself or its local candidates. Several scholars have identified ‘winning formulas’ or combinations of ideological ingredients that in many Western European countries are believed to have fuelled the parties’ electoral success. A largely unexplored factor is the appeal of local candidates which are essential if a populist party seeks to become rooted at the local level. This study seeks to fill a void in the populist party literature by examining how the supply and demand in the electoral market are met. It explores party, party leader and local candidate effects on the populist vote in the 2011 parliamentary elections in Finland. Based on survey data from the Finnish Election Study, individual-level vote choice is modeled as the outcome variable. The results show that being guided by the characteristics of the party leader is a much stronger predictor the of the True Finns vote than being affected by party or district-level candidate characteristics.
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