The European Voter: A Comparative Study of Modern Democracies

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    The purpose of this book is to describe and explain the changes in electoral behaviour that occurred in six West-European countries in the second half of the twentieth century. Two alternative theoretical approaches are systematically tested in an attempt to explain these changes. The first approach is deduced from modernisation theory. Modernisation theory implies that over time, the explanatory power for electoral behaviour of more or less stable structural variables such as social class and religion will yield to more short-term factors. The second and alternative theoretical approach predicts that changes and variations in patterns of voting behaviour are not due to secular processes in voting behaviour, but to variations in the political-institutional context, both between countries and within countries between different elections. In contrast to much of the authoritative literature, chapter after chapter of this book shows that there is little empirical evidence supporting modernization theory. Electoral behaviour is primarily political behaviour that is shaped by the political context of elections as much as by autonomous processes in society. In this respect, not much has changed during the period covered. The political context was never irrelevant for voting behaviour. No matter how divided a society is in terms of religion and/or social class, as long as these differences are not politicised, voters cannot be mobilised on this basis. Also, if voters do not see the policy differences between the political parties competing for their votes — as was increasingly the case in the second half of the 1980s and the 1990s in some of the countries in this study — one should not be surprised to find low correlations between voters’ policy preferences and their party choice.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationNew York
    PublisherOxford University Press
    Number of pages347
    ISBN (Print)0-19-927321-9
    Publication statusPublished - 2005

    Publication series

    NameComparative Politics
    PublisherOxford University Press


    • Electoral change
    • Western Europe
    • Modernization
    • Political change


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