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Paolo Bellucci, Diego Garzia and Michael S Lewis-Beck, "Issues and leaders as vote determinants: The case of Italy" Party Politics, 21 (March 2015), 272-283. [Available at]

First paragraph:

Political science research into the role that party leaders play in the citizen’s calculus of voting has increased in recent years. Scholars have documented increasing leader visibility and influence in the electoral campaigns (Swanson and Mancini, 1996), in the parties (Scarrow et al., 2000) and in the executive branch of parliamentary democracies (Karvonen, 2010). Such presidentialization of politics (Poguntke and Webb, 2005), which assigns leaders centre stage, also impacts directly on mass political behaviour, with political leaders becoming more important cues (Aarts et al., 2011Bittner, 2011Garzia, 2011McAllister, 2007). Moreover, as the literature on valence politics argues (Bellucci, 2006Clarke et al., 20042009Stokes, 1992), leader likeability contributes to the popular evaluation of the party which, with partisanship and economic considerations (Lewis-Beck and Stegmaier, 2007), strongly orients voter choice.
Figures and Table

Table 1: Baseline vote model (post-election data, logistic regression)
Table 2: Reciprocal effects of Leaders and Issues (pre-post election data OLS and 2SLS estimates)
Figure 1: Predicted probability of centre-right vote

Last Paragraph:

Against this backdrop, our findings do not deny a leader effect on voting. However, the analysis of reciprocal effects has shown that the image of the leaders contributes to the voters’ perception of parties’ utilities significantly less than the extent to which issues proximity causes voters’ perception of the leader image. Therefore, when jointly employed to explain vote choice, party utilities direct contribution exceeds that of the leaders’ image. This is true even in a political contest – like Italy’s Second Republic – where the personalization of politics has apparently come dangerously close to a populist democracy. Our findings are therefore reassuring: our conclusion is that, in the voters’ eyes, leaders represent their parties and their policies more than they represent themselves.

Last updated March 2015