Jan 312017
 

After three years or so, there is a publication date for our Handbook of Electoral Behaviour: it will be out in mid-March (2017) and could be yours for a mere 240 quid (hey, that’s a ten per cent pre-publication discount!). Delectable as it is, it is somewhat unlikely that you would want to buy this tome for your private collection, but you might want to recommend it to your library. Speaking of delectable things, here is what is in the box:

Introduction (Kai Arzheimer, Jocelyn Evans and Michael S. Lewis-Beck)

PART I  INSTITUTIONAL APPROACHES

Institutions and Voter Choice: Who Chooses, What Do They Choose Over, and How Do They Choose (Shaun Bowler)

Party Systems and Voter Alignments (Åsa von Schoultz (née Bengtsson))

The Study of Less Important Elections (Hermann Schmitt and Eftichia Teperoglou)

Clarity of Responsibility and Vote Choice (Thiago Silva and Guy D. Whitten)

Voting in New(er) Democracies (Lenka Bustikova and Elizabeth Zechmeister)

PART II  SOCIOLOGICAL APPROACHES

Age and Voting (Ruth Dassonneville)

Gender and Voting (Rosie Campbell)

Social Class and Voting (Geoffrey Evans)

Religion (Martin Elff and Sigrid Roßteutscher)

Race, Ethnicity and Elections: From Recognizable Patterns to Generalized Theories (Maria Sobolewska)

Social Networks and Voter Mobilization (Marc Hooghe)

PART III  PARTISANSHIP

The Evolving Role of Partisanship (Elias Dinas)

Party Identification: Meaning and Measurement (Donald P. Green and Susanne Baltes)

Cognitive Mobilization (Todd Donovan)

PART IV  VOTER DECISION-MAKING

Strategic Voting (Thomas Gschwend and Michael F. Meffert)

Integrating Genetics into the Study of Electoral Behavior (Carisa L. Bergner and Peter K. Hatemi)

Emotions and Voting (David P. Redlawsk and Douglas R. Pierce)

Referendums (Alan Renwick)

Turnout (Hanna Wass and André Blais)

PART V  ISSUES AND ATTITUDES

Ideology and Core Values (Robert N. Lupton, Adam M. Enders, and William G. Jacoby)

Issue Ownership: An Ambiguous Concept (Wouter van der Brug)

Valence (Jane Green and Will Jennings)

Value Cleavages (Romain Lachat)

The Economic Vote: Ordinary vs.Extraordinary Times (Michael S. Lewis-Beck and Marina Costa Lobo)

The VP-Function: A Review (Mary Stegmaier, Michael S. Lewis-Beck and Beomseob Park)

PART VI  CANDIDATES AND CAMPAIGNS

Voter Evaluation of Candidates and Party Leaders (Diego Garzia)

Candidate Location and Vote Choice (Jocelyn Evans)

The Personal Vote (Thomas Zittel)

Candidate Attractiveness (Markus Klein and Ulrich Rosar)

Campaign Effects (Richard Johnston)

Economic Voting in a New Media Environment:Preliminary Evidence and Implications (Diana C. Mutz and Eunji Kim)

Campaign Spending (Zachary Albert and Raymond La Raja)

PART VII  POLLING AND FORECASTING

Polls and Votes (Robert Ford, Christopher Wlezien, Mark Pickup and Will Jennings)

Econometric Approaches to Forecasting (Éric Bélanger and David Trotter)

Wisdom of Crowds (Andreas Murr)

Political Markets (Andreas Graefe)

Social Media and Elections: A Meta-analysis of Online-based Electoral Forecasts (Andrea Ceron, Luigi Curini and Stefano M. Iacus)

PART VIII  Candidates and Campaigns

Experiments (Robert Johns)

Multi-level Modelling of Voting Behaviour (Marcel Lubbers and Take Sipma)

Cross-national Data Sources: Opportunities and Challenges (Catherine de Vries)

Psephology and Technology, or: The Rise and Rise of the Script-Kiddie (Kai Arzheimer)

Conclusion (Marianne Stewart)

If you are still reading, you will have noticed that we got away with not having devoted a chapter (exclusively) to Rational Choice

Jan 042017
 

The good folks over at the LSE (which, apart from running one of the most vibrant Political Science blogging sites on the planet also happens to host a university) have kindly asked me to look ahead at the likely outcome of the German Federal Election in September in general and the role of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in particular. I submitted my text early in December so that it could be published after Christmas. Following the terror attack on the Christmas market in Berlin, they offered me the opportunity to amend and slightly extend the text. I politely declined, because I thought that a horrific but fairly localised event such as this will not fundamentally affect the outcome of a still relatively distant election. I have been wrong before. Here is the link to the article on the EUROPP blog:

Nov 182016
 

With the vote mostly counted in the US, PS have posted a useful summary of the Political Science Forecasting Models for that infamous election.

By and large, and in neat contrast to the current fad for self-flagellation, the augurs of the discipline have done well. Eight of the ten predictions that were published in PS got the winner of the popular vote right. Not that it would make a difference. Somewhat ironically, Norpoth’s Primary Model that I had (incorrectly) credited  on that gloomy Wednesday morning with predicting a Trump victory performed worst.  But in fairness to HN, his model has by far the longest lead.

Nov 132016
 

The one and only Philip Schrodt has written what I think is the perfect seven-take-home-messages rant on that election and it’s likely outcomes. Skip all the self-flagellation/yes-but posts and read this instead:

Then again, there is one thing that does not get enough coverage in there, and that is the whole polling/prediction disaster. So you should read this, too:

There. Your Sunday sorted out.

Nov 092016
 
Ballot - Vote

I’m not a huge fan of predictive Social Science. People are not the weather; they are bound to react to our predictions, which may become self-defeating or self-fulfilling in the process. Either scenario is unpleasant for obvious reasons. Predictive models are often subject to herd behaviour. They rarely rely on first principles, which makes them rather less interesting in terms of understanding the underlying dynamics, and may therefore fail rather spectacularly if the underlying, often implicit assumptions fail. This, in turn, tends to leave us with egg on our collective face.

Having said that, and looking at the rather spectacular result of the US presidential election, it’s difficult not to be impressed by Helmut Norpoth’s “Primary Model”, which predicted a solid Trump victory back in March. The Primary Model relies on very little data, has a relatively long lead (time from prediction to event), and a good track record: It has correctly identified the winner ever since it was introduced in 1996. Whether that makes HN a happy man today is a different matter.

The Primary Model’s rather quaint website is here; the link above points to a more accessible contribution by Norpoth to the PS symposium on forecasting the 2016 election. Which brings us back to the collective egg/face problem.

Update

I wrote  the original post in the early hours of November 9, when it was clear that Trump had a majority in the Electoral College. Since then, it has become clear that Clinton has won the popular vote, probably by a considerable margin. Because (as a couple of people have noted on Twitter) the Primary Model aims at predicting the popular vote, even Political Science’s consolation prize is gone. 

Dec 092015
 

A bit dated now, but still relevant: Showcasing our research at the Democratic Audit:
285467330_3b3c4ba936_voting

That voters prefer to elect local candidates is a long-held assumption of British politics. Professor Jocelyn Evans’ research has sought to test that assumption. He found that the geographical distance between candidates’ homes and the constituency had a measurable impact on voting behaviour. In this post he shares his findings and argues that voters should have access to more information about the ‘localness’ of those seeking to represent them …

Read the full post here: Where candidates live matters to voters, and they show it in their voting

Jan 232015
 

Everyone is angry/worried/excited/happy (delete as appropriate) about the prospect of Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the radical left-wing Syriza party, becoming Prime Minister of Greece, while the man himself has begun to treat the election as a mere formality. But is such an outcome even likely? The most recent polls have given Syriza a lead of two to ten percentage points over the centre-right New Democracy party, which is currently governing in a coalition with the (much reduced) centre-left Pasok.

Τσίπρας photoPhoto by 0neiros

While the number of undecided voters is still very high (in the range of ten per cent), the pattern is very consistent: ND has not been leading in a single poll taken since last May. Being the strongest party is significant, as it would give Syriza the 50 seat bonus that is still enshrined in Greek electoral law.

Party Percent Seats
Syriza 32.5 95+50
New Democracy 26.5 77
Potami 5.8 17
Golden Dawn 5 15
KKE 5 15
Pasok 4.4 13
Independent Greeks 3.4 10
Social Democrats 3 9

(based on latest GOP poll)

But even so, it is unclear if Syriza reaches the 151 seats that are required to form a government. The results of the last GPO poll translate into just 95 + 50 seats for Syriza. That’s with the newly formed Social Democratic party of former PM Papandreou scraping past the three per cent threshold. But even if the Social Democrats don’t make it, Syriza would need 34 per cent (about the highest level of support they have so far achieved in the polls) to win 151 seats. Only if the slightly erratic Independent Greeks also poll less than three per cent, 32 per cent of the vPhoto by 0neiros ote will be enough to give Syriza an outright majority of the seats (tactical voting, anyone?).

Otherwise, they will have to find a coalition partner. The communists (KKE) have firmly ruled out the prospect of any cooperation with Syriza, while Tsipras has declared that he does not want to work with the left-liberal (?) Potami. As of now, other coalitions look even less likely, so this may well end in a hung parliament.

Apr 052014
 

The first round of the French local elections created quite a stir, but the second round of the French local elections was not a bad day for the anoraks either. While the initial focus was on the not totally unexpected success of the Front National, most of my correspondents agree that the real news is the annihilation of the governing Parti socialiste. Amongst the many posts, here are the ones I find most interesting:

marine le pen photoPhoto by Mashthetics

  1. Over at the LSE blog, Jocelyn Evans and Gilles Ivaldi, the grand seigneurs of Front National blogging, argue just that: The shock of Sunday’s French municipal elections was the Socialist defeat (this is actually reblogged from their own 500signatures site). The Guardian agrees.
  2. For Art Goldhammer, it is the end of municipal socialism.
  3. Part of the fallout was the appointment of Manuel Valls as new French PM. John Gaffney thinks that this was a desperate move that will come back to haunt Hollande.
  4. But Art Goldhammer links to a source claiming that Hollande actually has been wanting Valls to be PM for a long time.
  5. And here is an “interview” on the Monkey Cage – interesting questions/answers on Hollande’s electoral disaster, but in a slightly odd format.
Apr 012014
 
Lord Salisbury on the drawbacks of universal suffrage. Cited in David Marquand, Britain since 1918, p. 54

Lord Salisbury on the drawbacks of universal suffrage. Cited in David Marquand, Britain since 1918, p. 54

MP, Peer, Secretary of State for India, Foreign Secretary, Leader of the Opposition, thrice Prime Minister of Britain, architect of the Empire and arch-Conservative. Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, third Marquess of Salisbury and colloquially known as Lord Salisbury was not exactly a fan of mass democracy. This is from one of his essays in the Quarterly Review, quoted in David Marquand’s history of Britain in the 20th century. A lovely thing, these dead tree books.

Mar 142012
 

Much to everybody’s surprise, the minority government in North Rhine-Westphalia collapsed today. Minority governments are a rarity in Germany. The federal constitution, reflecting Germany’s inter-war experience of unstable governments and intense political strife, practically rules them out. Constitutional details at the state level differ but the general assumption is that the government needs the reliable support of a majority of MPs. The increasing fragmentation of the German party system, however, plays havoc with these constitutional patterns.

In 2010, the land election brought about political deadlock in NRW, a state that has roughly the size, population, and GDP of the Netherlands. Neither of the two major parties (SPD and CDU) could form a majority government without at least two of the three minor parties (the Greens, the FDP (liberals), and the Left). Lengthy negotiations to form a Grand coalition or various three party coalitions (CDU/FDP/Greens, SPD/Greens/Left, SPD/Greens/FDP) failed, leading to the eventual constitution of a red-green minority government that proved remarkably stable.

Its unexpected downfall resulted from a legal twist. Today, the state parliament voted on the budget in a second reading. During this session, votes were scheduled for every single chapter of the whole budget. Both FDP and the Left were set to vote against the government, expecting that they could extract concessions from the government before the third and final reading in two weeks time. But yesterday, constitutional lawyers working for the state parliament informed the parties that due to its specific structure, a vote against any chapter would terminate the budgetary process without a third reading. The government, on the other hand, had declared that it could not operate without a constitutional budget and would seek to dissolve parliament.

This left the FDP and the Left with the choice to lose face or risk the loss of parliamentary representation, as they are not doing well in the polls. This afternoon, they chose the latter. Elections will be held in May.

At the moment, we do not know who asked for the legal opinion, whether the advice was controversial, and why the budget was structured in such a peculiar way. The document has been leaked to the press, but has not been published in full.

A telephone poll by Infratest dimap predicts a majority for a new red-green coalition, with the FDP truly and well below the five percent threshold and results for the Left and the Pirate party to close to call. But this is, of course, just the beginning of the campaign.