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Finding the One: Complexity of Vote Choices in High Information Open-List PR Systems

Candidate
 
Electoral Behaviour
 
Voting Behaviour
 
Presenter
Theodora Järvi
University of Helsinki
Authors
Theodora Järvi
University of Helsinki
Mikko Mattila
University of Helsinki
Åsa von Schoultz
University of Helsinki

Abstract
Vote choice in an open-list proportional electoral system is a complex process where the voter has to decide both the party to vote for and the candidate within that party. These systems are characterized by an information-rich environment, where the vote choice is complicated by the large number of candidates, and the amount of information required to make an informed choice. In such complex and information-rich systems, voters are expected to apply strategies that allow them to narrow down the pool of candidates from which the actual choice is made. This study aims to answer the question of which type of strategies facilitate voters’ choice of candidate. More specifically, we examine voters’ perceptions of the ease with which they choose their candidate. We distinguish three decision-making patterns – the ideological, in which the voter looks for party- related and ideological positioning cues; the socio-normative, in which the voter considers their social ingroup (such as family, friends and other identifying groups); and the candidate-related, in which the voter looks for specific features in candidates, such as age and gender. Our study is situated in the Finnish open-list PR system, a system that is characterized by a complex electoral setting with many candidates at display, intense intra-party competition and mandatory preferential voting. Using data from the Finnish National Election Study for the last two parliamentary elections (2015 and 2019) we outline the mechanisms that facilitate the ease with which voters make their choice of candidate.
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