Return to: Search Page or to: Table of Contents Vol. 19, Issue 4

Ann-Marie Ekengren and Henrik Oscarsson, "Party elites' perceptions of voting behaviour," Party Politics, 19 (July 2013), 641-664. [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol19/issue4/ ]

First paragraph:
Anthony Downs' economic theory of democracy (1957) and Gunnar Sjo¨blom's arena model of party strategy (1968) are obvious points of departure for research into party strategy and party competition, bearing in mind that most of the popular and historically successful models of party strategy and competition were originally developed on the basis of empirical data and experience from the 1950s and 1960s (Budge and Farlie, 1983; Downs, 1957; Sartori, 1976; Sjo¨blom, 1968). Since then, the evolution of modern election campaigning is supposed to have greatly influenced parties' strategic reasoning and action. Electorates are becoming increasingly volatile and less attached to political parties (Dalton, 2006). Many party systems are displaying signs of ideological depolarization, and election campaigns are becoming increasingly important as the proportion of late deciders among voters continues to rise (Holmberg and Oscarsson, 2004). Similar developments have been reported from many European countries, often accompanied by calls for further empirical observation of party competition and its implications (Gunther and Diamond, 2003). In this context, we believe that much can be learned from juxtaposing established models of party competition -- which all claim to have something important to say on voting behaviour -- with empirical data on how party elites perceive voting behaviour. Under the influence of modernization and individualization trends in voting behaviour, are party elites changing their perceptions of voting behaviour? If so, does this have any implications for popular theories of party strategy and models of party competition?

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Theoretical models of how party elites perceive voting behaviour. Downs' model Saliency model
Table 2. The Social Democratic elite's perceptions of voting behaviour
Table 3. The Conservative elite's perceptions of voting behaviour
Appendix. Election results for the Swedish parties 1960--91 (per cent)..

Last Paragraph:
So far we have been unable to find any convincing explanation for the general patterns evident in both parties. Instead, the empirical patterns suggest that we should look for more party-specific explanations, since the party elites under investigation clearly had different ways of thinking about the voters and their behaviour at the start of the study period. Future research would benefit from including more parties and more countries that might have different party systems and somewhat different experiences of voting results. This would make it possible to study which patterns are unique and which are generalizable. When the next step has been taken, we can investigate further how different perceptions of voting behaviour affect party strategies. For example, do party elites which rely more heavily on a Downsian perspective tend to emphasize ideological positioning in campaign planning more often than others? Or, do party elites which rely on a competence model more extensively focus on past and future performances than other actors?

Last updated November 2013