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Follow the party or follow the leader? - Non-alignment of party and leader sympathies

TitleFollow the party or follow the leader? - Non-alignment of party and leader sympathies
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsSchwirz, Laura Maria, and Michael Marsh
Conference Name2nd European Conference on Comparative Electoral Research
Keywordscausal direction, non- alignment of party and leader sympathies, party leaders, personalisation of politics

There is a common conception that party leaders have come to play a very significant role in the decision-making process of voters. However, the literature on the impact of leadership effects on vote choice provides no consensus in support of this claim. One problem about much of the research is that the causal direction between leader sympathy and party support is problematic, and the cross-sectional designs of many studies have seemed inadequate to the task of resolving the issue. In this paper we propose a novel solution. Many studies contain data on leader and party sympathies. We explore these, and in particular examine instances in which a voter thinks the party with the best leader is not the best party, or the best party does not have the best leader. Using data from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES), the European Voter Project as well as additional data from Australia, Canada and New Zealand, we investigate the following: in situations where sympathies towards parties and leaders are not aligned, do voters follow the party or the leader? Moreover, in light of an increasingly personalised campaign environment and style of politics, do we find an increase of voters following the leader when viewed over time? And finally, do we find variation among different types of electoral systems?

TEV_FollowPartyFollowLeader_SCHWIRZ.pdf1.2 MB