About this Research Topic
Contemporary democracies are undergoing deep changes that put the legitimacy of their political actors and the more classical processes of representation under stress. Political parties and their role in the articulation of political representation are especially challenged. Furthermore, processes of individualization of vote choices weaken long-standing group loyalties, while economic globalization, the development of the Internet and of online social networks are rapidly changing the social and economic landscape, the dynamics of public opinion, with a strong impact on political alignments. In such a changing environment, unprecedented electoral outcomes have emerged in recent national elections, which followed the 2008 global economic crisis. The 2016 electoral results in the United States, the Brexit referendum and several recent European national elections have witnessed a resurgence of protest movements and anti-establishment parties: against financial austerity, national elites, immigration, globalization, as well as against the EU. Furthermore, new conflicts related to old territorial, center-periphery cleavages have re-emerged, as testified by the Catalan issue in Spain. These phenomena can ultimately be strengthened by the current health and economic crisis related to the Covid-19 pandemic, leading to further changes in the configurations of party systems.
These developments point to important questions for scholars working on electoral behavior and public opinion. Indeed, the weakening of traditional party allegiances suggests that characteristics of party leaders and candidates, as well as campaigns in general, may play an even stronger role in the voting decision process. At the same time, the success of new and/or niche parties, both on the left and on the right, mobilizing the “losers of globalization” and the territorial differentiation of party support in the USA and Europe along rural-urban, center-peripheries divides seem to suggest the emergence of new political cleavages related to globalization, EU integration processes and the survival/reactivation of old territorial lines of conflict. In this regard, this Research Topic centers around three up-to-date streams of research on voting behavior. First, on the demand-side, scholars are increasingly focusing on how voting decisions are influenced by voters’ positions on issues and ideology, by attitudes towards governments, by their perceived performance, and more generally by perceptions about parties’ and candidates’ competence and leadership. Second, on the supply-side, recent studies focus on electoral campaigns and party competition on issues, especially on social media, and the role played by new political entrepreneurs to mobilize voters around transnational conflicts related to globalization, immigration and EU integration. Third, several studies conceive contextual effects as key factors influencing voting decision. The rise of political polarization, the role played by institutions (e.g. electoral systems), personal networks of influence and the territorial configuration of party support are all contextual factors that deserve attention.
More research is needed to improve our understanding of the factors, mechanisms and contexts of voting behavior, by identifying the antecedents, covariates, and moderators of voting choices. This is precisely the goal of this Research Topic.
The objective of this interdisciplinary Research Topic is to move forward the frontier of electoral studies. A non-exhaustive list of potential contributions of interest include:
1. Research related to the demand-side of voting: studies on issue voting, party identification, ideology and the dimensionality of political space at the citizenry level; studies clarifying how voting choices are influenced by attitudes towards governments and by their perceived performance; studies on how perceptions about parties’ and candidates’ competence and more generally about leaders’ characteristics affect voting choices.
2. Research that addresses the supply-side of voting such as: case studies of successful electoral campaigns; studies on party competition on issues and on the dimensionality of the political space at the party level; studies relating successful electoral results and strategic party campaigns and communication on social media in the digital age; analyses about the role played by new political entrepreneurs to mobilize voters around new cleavages related to globalization, immigration and EU integration.
3. Research that addresses the contextual features that can affect voting choices, such as: the political polarization of party systems, the role played by institutions (e.g. electoral systems), by personal networks of discussion, and the territorial configuration of party support. In particular, contributions on within-country contextual effects on individual voting behavior are particularly welcomed. These studies should look at the spatial dimension of voting behavior and are at the crossroads where political science meets political geography.
4. Methodological contributions proposing better research designs and/or measurement strategies, such as: re-analysis and replications of published contributions that extend their modelling strategies or test the robustness of their findings; studies proposing better conceptualizations and survey items to gauge relevant constructs; studies proposing new measurement strategies to analyze issue voting and economic voting; studies relying on experimental survey designs and on new tools such as Voting Advice Applications; online content analyses and machine learning approaches to party communication and campaigns on social media; studies dealing with causality in statistical modelling of covariates of voting choices through regression discontinuity designs, instrumental variables, etc.
We welcome contributions from political science, political sociology, political geography, political psychology, political communication and computational politics. We are particularly interested in comparative analyses, taking advantage of the variation across countries, regions, or levels and relying on both aggregate and individual data.
Keywords: Electoral Studies, Voting Behavior, Party Choices, Issue Competition, Issue Voting, Economic Voting, Leadership, Cleavages, Political Attitudes, Political Space, Contextual Effects, Electoral Geography, Digital Technologies, Public Opinion
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.