This section is supported by the ECPR standing group on Public Opinion and Voting Behaviour in a comparative perspective.
The recent financial crisis has accelerated developments that have characterized electoral competition and political representation in the last decades in Europe and beyond. Processes of individualization of vote choices weaken long-standing group loyalties, while economic globalization is changing the economic landscape and influences political alignments. The democratic system of electorally accountable, representative government increasingly appears as the most vulnerable link in a complex system of multi-level governance. Furthermore, the development of the Internet and of online social networks rapidly changes the landscape and dynamics of public opinion.
In such a challenging environment, it is not surprising that, after the enforcement of severe austerity measures in many countries, unprecedented electoral outcomes have emerged in recent national elections. Several European countries have witnessed a resurgence of protest movements and anti-establishment parties: against financial austerity, national elites, and – not least – against the EU. These phenomena may lead to deep changes in the configurations of party systems. The success of niche parties, both on the left and on the right, mobilizing the “losers of globalization”, is one of its most visible consequences.
These developments point to important questions for scholars working on electoral behaviour and public opinion. They emphasize the further weakening of traditional party allegiances, opening the way for political entrepreneurs who seek to mobilize voters on new issues. This also suggests that characteristics of party leaders and candidates, as well as campaigns in general, may become to play an even stronger role in the voting decision process.
All this also highlights a rising discontent towards political elites and the functioning of representative institutions. This shows the importance of analysing how voting decisions are influenced by attitudes towards governments, by their perceived performance, and more generally by perceptions about parties’ and candidates’ competence. Moreover, changing patterns of trust in parties and institutions and in the dynamics of political participation also call for specific analyses.
At the same time, the analysis of these developments can take advantage of several important data collection efforts undertaken in recent years. Projects such as the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems, the Comparative Candidate Surveys, the European Election Studies, as well as the increasing number of National Election Studies in many European countries, offer important data sources that allow scholars to account for both individual-level characteristics and contextual features. Also, new, innovative tools and methodological advances are increasingly common, such as Voting Advice Applications, online content analyses, and now widespread experimental methods.
In light of such background, this section invites scholars working on citizens’ attitudes, voting choices, political participation and on patterns of electoral competition. We are particularly interested in comparative analyses, taking advantage of the variation across countries, regions, or levels (European, national, regional, etc.).
Romain Lachat is an assistant professor of political science at the Department of Political and Social Sciences of Universitat Pompeu Fabra. His research focuses on the comparative analysis of electoral behaviour and on political representation. He is particularly interested in the impact of political institutions and party characteristics on individual-level behaviour. He is currently involved in several research projects, including Making Electoral Democracy Work, and The True European Voter. He has published in several international political science journals, including Comparative Political Studies, Electoral Studies, the European Journal of Political Research, Political Behavior, and West European Politics.
Lorenzo De Sio is an assistant professor at LUISS Guido Carli in Rome. His interests are in elections, public opinion and voting behaviour in comparative perspective, with a focus on models of voting behaviour and party competition. A member of the Italian National Election Studies (ITANES) and coordinator of the Italian Center for Electoral Studies at LUISS, he is involved in international research projects such as The True European Voter and EUandI (formerly EU Profiler). Besides his books in Italian, his publications include articles appearing in Comparative Political Studies, West European Politics, South European Society and Politics, Rivista Italiana di Scienza Politica. He has been a research fellow at the University of California – Irvine, the European University Institute and Stanford University.