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The European VoterA Comparative Study Of Modern Democracies$
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Jacques Thomassen

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199273218

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2005

DOI: 10.1093/0199273219.001.0001

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Issue Voting

Issue Voting

(p.192) 8 Issue Voting
The European Voter

Bernt Aardal

Pieter van Wijnen

Oxford University Press

The main research question in this chapter is to what extent and how voters’ perceptions of important issues affect the outcome of the election. The analyses clearly demonstrate that issue voting matters. If a voter thinks that a certain issue is salient, this has a considerable positive effect on the probability that he or she will vote for the party that is regarded as the ‘owner’ of the issue. Despite thelimitations of the measurements and data used, it is argued that issues do matter in modern elections. However, contrary to expectations based on modernisation theory, no secular increase in issue voting over time was found. The notion that policy preferences — or issues — have “replaced” social background as prime determinants of voting tends to overlook the fact that even the traditional models of voting behaviour were not devoid of political context. In this perspective, the analysis in this chapter confirms that election campaigns are still fought over issues that both politicians and voters perceive as important. If a party owns an issue, it has far better chances in an upcoming election, only if the voters — and the media — agree with the party that this particular issue deserves particular attention.

Keywords:   issue voting, issue ownership, position issues, valence issues

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