Voters & Voting: An Introduction


Jocelyn A.J. Evans

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    To my father and Margaret Here's the answer.

    List of Tables and Figures


    In writing this book, I have attempted to fill a gap in the voting literature. In teaching an undergraduate course on voting behaviour, it struck me that there was no single text which I could recommend to students as an introduction to the various theories and models which they would encounter during the course. It certainly struck the students that this was the case, and I'm sure some of them believed that, for some unfathomable and probably bizarre reason, I was hiding the existence of a textbook from them. To me, the bizarre reason why I was not providing this text was precisely because it did not exist.

    Plenty of excellent texts on various aspects of electoral behaviour exist, but these are usually research monographs and articles addressing a specific element in the equation. Consequently they are aimed at an audience already versed in the subject. There are also a number of textbooks which consider voting behaviour in a country or a region, and which test theories of voting with copious empirical evidence. There are those texts which present the theories as part of a broader conceptual package. Lastly, there are texts which unpack a single theory in all its complexity, but which completely ignore theoretical fellow-travellers. I have no criticism of any of these approaches – but if only in their sheer quantity, complexity and often exclusivity of focus, they present an imposing obstacle to the student wishing to receive an overview of the voting theories on offer.

    Add to this that the piecemeal nature of the various approaches often serves to hide the continuities in approach that particularly link much of post-war research into electoral behaviour, and students find themselves with not only a mountain to climb, but a contextual vacuum in which to accomplish this. Of course, the teacher should provide such a context in the classroom, but the non-existent text providing written support beyond the lecture theatre and seminar room would serve to reinforce this. Some might say that, precisely by dealing with electoral theories in a separate package, I am denying them their essential context (i.e. that they should be spoken of in the same breath as electoral laws, participation, social change, decision-making, etc.). They may have a point, and in my defence I would point out that I refer to all of these at various points in the book, to illustrate how voting theories relate more broadly. But an element in a system can be usefully studied in artificial isolation, as long as one never loses sight of its true functional position.

    Lastly, for the postgraduate student embarking upon the x-year journey through methods classes, Stats 101 thru 199 and applied empirical testing in their own doctoral research, mastery of the models and equations characterising an increasing proportion of the electoral literature is a necessary part of the learning process. That voting theories are now tested in more sophisticated models is predominantly, to this author at least, a testament to their intellectual appeal and success. But for a Political Science undergraduate who requires grounding in voting theory, there is a tendency to give a cursory introduction to theories but leave to one side much of the best research simply because it is felt that undergraduates are unlikely to have the statistical tools necessary to understand it. I think this is largely fallacious. To carry out such research demands a high level of statistical know-how. To read the research and understand the basic concepts which drive the models does not. Deciphering what the models are getting at is not the same as knowing exactly how they work. To this end, I have provided what I regard as a suitable minimum of explanation which can get non-statisticians started with appreciating – but not carrying out – such quantitative research.

    It was with all these aims in mind that this book was written. It is intended as an introduction to the wide array of voting theories for students with little or no previous exposure to these concepts, and no statistical training. I have made sure to select readings which provide clear and concise explanations of their findings, and which do not rely on the reader to decipher these from the models. I certainly do not expect it to present anything new for experts in psephology (the study of voting), nor do I present any extensive primary research. Given the vast range of literature on offer, it does not pretend to present every major text on a given subject, but rather the key texts which I think get across to the reader the main thrust of a subject. Some texts are used more copiously than others precisely because they stand out as benchmarks. As a textbook reviewing and presenting existing research, I would not try and pass off any of the ideas as ‘mine’, with the exception of parts of Chapter 8. They are the good ideas of others which I want to bring to an audience which too often shies away from them.


    A number of people and institutions should be acknowledged in the production of this book. I would like to thank Robert Andersen, Eva Anduiza Perea, Tor Bj0rklund, Martin Bull, Elisabeth Carter, David Farrell, Steven Fielding, Jonathan Simon and Peter Ucen who have all provided information at various times or commented on drafts. Given that Chapter 8 is derived in part from my doctoral thesis – this chapter includes the only previously ‘seen’ work in the book – I should thank my thesis jury, Anthony Heath, Yves Mény, Pascal Perrineau and my supervisor, Stefano Bartolini, for their comments which have now belatedly found their way into this book. Usual disclaimers as to responsibility for accuracy and errors herein apply.

    Various colleagues have provided encouragement along the way, expressing a desire to see the finished product, which is always incentive for an author. I am certain there are more, but three spring to mind in particular – Tim Bale, Ben Clift and John Garry. I would also like to thank Ed Page for helpful suggestions made early on when I was considering writing the book. The students who took my ‘Voting Behaviour: Theories and Empirical Testing’ course at Salford deserve thanks for their feedback on much of the material which has been used here – and also for being willing to take a module with what is, on reflection, a monstrously off-putting title. (I promise future cohorts that I shall change it to something less stodgy.) At Sage, I am particularly indebted to Lucy Armitage and David Mainwaring who provided patient encouragement throughout the writing of the book.

    Institutionally, I acknowledge the support of the ZA-Eurolab in Cologne for having given me access to the NSD 1993 Norwegian electoral data during my stay there in 1998, the original analysis of which provided two of the figures used in Chapter 5. A similar acknowledgement to the Centred'Informatisation des Données Socio-Politiques (CIDSP), Grenoble, for providing the SOFRES 1995 French post-election survey which was also used in that chapter. I should also thank this institution and its staff for very kindly hosting me during a period of research leave from Salford University during which I completed the book. I am similarly grateful to the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) for partially funding this leave. Finally, I should thank Salford and its Politics and Contemporary History department for allowing me sufficient time to conceive of this project and start the writing process.

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