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About this book

This major new text by two leading authorities in the field provides a state-of-the-art assessment of what we know about voting behaviour and the character, consequences and significance of elections in democratic states. It shows how patterns of electoral behaviour have evolved over time and vary in different countries.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Why Elections?

Abstract
Elections are everyday events in the modern world. In representative democracies, their purpose is to allow voters to express their political preferences by making choices — between parties and/or between candidates — choices with implications (sometimes clear consequences) for the conduct of government and the policies that a government will pursue. Elections are opportunities for citizens to render a verdict on the past performance of their government and to establish guidelines for future government actions. Yet as soon as we refer to citizens we raise an enormous question mark over the electoral process in democratic countries. How well do ordinary men and women perform in making the sorts of judgements and choices that these lofty goals imply? Many critics of democracy have denied that members of the public have either the knowledge or the perspicacity required for rendering such verdicts or establishing such guidelines. And political scientists who have studied the behavior of voters at election time have sometimes expressed exactly the same doubts. This book is centered on the question of how citizens in democracies go about making the choices that elections call upon them to make. It also tries to assess the extent to which these choices turn out in practice to be good ones, and whether there are institutional arrangements that make it more or less easy for citizens to exercise their democratic judgment.
Cees van der Eijk, Mark N. Franklin

Chapter 2. Studying Elections, Parties and Voters

Abstract
This is a book about voters, politicians, parties (sometimes referred to as ‘actors’) and electoral politics (sometimes seen as the ‘stage’ upon which these actors perform). In it we see elections as providing a sort of ritualized encounter in which voters engage politicians and parties. In order to understand the nature of these encounters, we need to describe how they fit into the wider political system — by which we mean both the institutions of government and the party system (electoral systems are described in Chapter 3). So first we will distinguish three fundamental types of institutional context on the basis of the differences in these characteristics. Subsequently we will argue that these wider contexts and the largely institutionalized ways in which elections are conducted provide the opportunity for learning to take place and habits to form, both for voters and for parties.
Cees van der Eijk, Mark N. Franklin

Chapter 3. Electoral Institutions

Abstract
This chapter and the next describe a number of basic elements that define the character of an election. These can be divided into institutional and behavioral factors. This chapter focuses on electoral institutions. Our objective is not to give a complete account of the differences in election laws amongst the countries that we study, but only to provide a picture basic enough for an understanding of the differences that condition the behavior of voters.
Cees van der Eijk, Mark N. Franklin

Chapter 4. Voters and Parties

Abstract
We have established that there are a great many differences in the arrangements adopted in particular countries for organizing elections and for the translation of election outcomes into functioning governments. What are the consequences for the way voters behave at election time of different kinds of party system, electoral arrangements and legislative-executive relations? In this chapter we will flesh out the ideas that have been suggested regarding the way in which voters reach their voting decisions.
Cees van der Eijk, Mark N. Franklin

Chapter 5. Outcomes of Elections

Abstract
Election outcomes can be viewed in a number of ways, though we will focus on just three. First, they can be seen as deciding (or strongly influencing) whether office holders remain in office or are replaced. More specifically, they can be seen as more or less successful in holding governments to account. Under this heading we discuss matters such as the power of incumbency, term limits and phenomena associated with the possibility of ‘throwing the rascals out’. Note that some offices that have little or no decision-making autonomy can nevertheless be filled by election (the Irish, for example, elect their national President whose role, however, is purely ceremonial, much in contrast to the Office of President of the United States).
Cees van der Eijk, Mark N. Franklin

Chapter 6. The Role of Public Opinion

Abstract
As long as policy-makers submit themselves to regular elections, they have an interest in taking account of public opinion on matters of public concern — matters upon which they are making policy or might have to make policy. Public opinion manifests itself in many ways and not just at election time. In modern democracies opinion polls function as quasi-elections, providing a snapshot of the balance of preferences in an electorate without immediate implications for office-holding. Anticipating the possibility that this balance of public opinion might be mobilized at the time of the next real election, elected officials often react to an opinion poll as though to a real election. This is particularly so in the course of an election campaign, when political parties conduct many polls so as to pin-point sources of potential support and opposition, and so as to adjust their campaigns appropriately. The extent to which politicians adapt their policy stances on the basis of public opinion is dependent on whether they are more motivated by power considerations (vote-seeking) than by principle (policy-seeking) — a distinction that is related to the top-down versus bottom-up distinction made in Chapter 2. Even when the next election is a long way off, opinion polls can galvanize politicians into rethinking their actions just as though an election campaign were in progress (a phenomenon often referred to as ‘the permanent campaign’).
Cees van der Eijk, Mark N. Franklin

Chapter 7. Voter Orientations

Abstract
Over the course of the previous chapters it has become clear that the interaction between voters, parties and electoral institutions is a complex one. An election outcome can be understood from different perspectives. From one perspective, it can be seen in terms of what voters do — how they evaluate parties and candidates. Alternatively it can be seen in terms of what parties do — how they choose policies, exercise leadership and strategically position themselves. Yet again, it can be seen in terms of the institutional setting in which voters and parties interact. So an election outcome is the result of a dynamic interaction between voters, parties and institutions. We have already discussed parties and institutions in earlier chapters. In this chapter we will consider voters.
Cees van der Eijk, Mark N. Franklin

Chapter 8. Assessing Electoral Democracy

Abstract
Apart from their consequences for policy and selection of personnel, elections affect the relationship of citizens to their political system. In Powell’s (2000) words they are ‘instruments of democracy’. To what extent can we judge how well they fulfil this role? And, to the extent that we can do so, how do various systems perform in relation to each other?
Cees van der Eijk, Mark N. Franklin
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