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Political Research Exchange - PRX

Catch 22: Voters between Left/Right and EU-Integration

Party Systems
Public Opinion
Voting Behaviour
Louise Hoon
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Louise Hoon
Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Long considered an irrelevant issue to voters, the EU has become an important determinant for electoral choice (see also De Vries 2007, Hobolt et al 2009). Parties’ positions on the left/right and pro-/anti-EU dimension take the shape of an inverted U curve, with extreme left- and right parties opposing, and centre parties supporting EU-integration (Marks, Hooghe & Wilson 2002). Whereas there are strategic and ideological incentives for parties to position as they do, it is not clear whether public opinion about left/right and pro/anti-EU integration issues mirrors this inverted U-curve. If not, than the increased salience of EU-integration in voters’ electoral choice, may pose those anti-European voters, who do not position at the extreme ends of the left/right spectrum, with the dilemma of voting for a party that they agree with on one, but not on the other dimension. This paper uses data of the European Election Study to map the distribution of voters in the two-dimensional ideological space. By matching these distributions with the specific inverted U-curves of the 28 member states, I identify different groups of ‘unserved voters’, whose left/right and EU-integration attitudes cannot be matched with a political party at offer in their country. Controlling for a range of other attitudes, I analyse what strategies those voters who remain ‘unserved’ apply to maximize congruence with the party they vote for. Not unsurprisingly, the analyses show that the relative importance voters attach to either one of the dimensions (salience) is an important indicator for what dimension they will prioritize when they vote. It is more interesting, however, that unserved voters are also more likely to switch between parties over elections, to split their ticket in coinciding elections, and to abstain from voting altogether.
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