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Strategies of Secession and Counter-Secession

Elections to the European Parliament: Second Order Elections in Western European and Third Order Elections in Eastern Europe

Electoral Behaviour
European Parliament
Daniel Stockemer
University of Ottawa
Daniel Stockemer
University of Ottawa

Throughout the European Parliament’s nearly 40 years of existence, electoral turnout in European parliamentary elections has consistently been lower than electoral turnout in the national elections of the member states. The second order national election model provides a good framework to explain this decreased citizens’ participation; European elections do not trigger as much media attention, party engagement and voters’ interest than the first order national election. In this research, we expand the second order national election model and highlight that the model cannot only explain discrepancies between national and European turnout, but also differences in turnout levels between Western and Eastern Europe. Using name recognition of the main candidates to the European Parliament of the three main party groups, Junker for the Conservatives, Schulz for the Socialists and Verhoffstadt for the Liberals as a proxy for the salience of the these election, we show that knowledge for any of the three political figures was more than twice has high in Western Europe as in Eastern Europe. Second, we illustrate through multivariate analysis that these low knowledge levels in the East are a major reason for the low turnout there. In fact, our analysis shows that if knowledge levels of major politicians would increase in the East to knowledge levels in the West, turnout in Eastern Europe would increase by 10 to 15 percentage points. For theory, this finding entails that EP elections are second order in the West and third order in the East.
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