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Gendering the European Parliament

Sharing Friends and Neighbours: How Geographic Distance between Co-Partisan Candidates Affects Intraparty Competition

Gert-Jan Put
University of Leuven
Gert-Jan Put
University of Leuven
Åsa von Schoultz
University of Helsinki

This paper examines to what extent intraparty competition patterns in list PR systems are explained by geographic distance between co-partisans. In electoral systems where intraparty competition is high, candidates face strong incentives to cultivate personal votes and stand out among co-partisans. Candidate strategies to achieve this include personalized campaigning, (sub)constituency-oriented behavior and exhibiting personal vote-earning attributes (PVEA). A growing literature identifies local roots as crucial candidate attributes to be electorally more successful (Shugart et al., 2005; Tavits, 2010; Put and Maddens, 2015). Other work establishes that local roots are valuable resources for parties as well (Nemoto and Shugart, 2013), and also discusses how and which voters look for local candidates on the list (Jankowski, 2016; Blais and Daoust, 2017; Collignon and Sajuria, 2018).
We argue that a candidate’s ability to build an electoral support base of local voters largely depends on the presence or absence of nearby living local candidates on the list. The geographic proximity of co-partisans affects the candidates’ intraparty vote shares and decreases the effectiveness of local PVEA to cultivate personal votes. In the paper, we analyze the effect of geographic distance between a candidate and his nearest living co-partisan within the electoral district on intraparty vote shares.
The analysis also looks for factors conditioning this general distance effect. First, we take into account indicators of local roots (i.e. local-level experience and being a district native). Second, we look at characteristics of the candidate’s municipality by controlling for population size and by using population density as a proxy for urbanization. Third and finally, we also expect that the negative effect of co-partisan proximity is conditioned by the nearest living candidates’ characteristics: local roots, and whether the nearest candidate is living in the same municipality. Previous research indeed suggests that friends-and-neighbors voting quickly decays beyond the borders of a candidate’s home municipality or county (Gimpel et al. 2008; Meredith, 2013).
We focus on the open-list proportional representation (OLPR) system of Finland, where voters cast one single preference vote for a candidate and intraparty competition is particularly high. We use a dataset covering 10.424 candidates nominated for Finnish parliamentary elections between 1995 and 2011. The data includes information on candidates’ local roots, electoral results and address coordinates.
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