Research hypothesis

  • Leader Effects will be stronger where both government power is centralized and number of parties in government is reduced. All EU democracies are non-presidential, but they differ substantially on the degree to which the Prime Minister is granted powers over the government, and in terms of number of parties in government. Lobo’s previous work on semipresidentialism, as well as on Prime Ministerial power, will serve as the basis to organize this section, in order to create a typology and then an index that reflects the executive power across the EU. If we find that where power is more centralized, and accountability is greater, leader effects are stronger then we can conclude that these are a sign of politicization.
  • Leader Effects will be stronger for parties where leaders are more important.
    Following from Marina Costa Lobo’s previous work which established a link between party type (mass-based vs. electoralist) and leader effects, we will explore the relationship between nature of parties and leader effects. Firstly, leader effects should be larger where party leaders are directly elected by the militants, or in open primaries. Secondly, leader effects should also be larger in parties that normally form government, relative to parties who tend to be in opposition. For government parties, choosing a leader constitutes in effect the choice of a prime minister. Both are signs that the distinction between leaders and parties may be blurring, but not less political for it.
  • The importance of Leader Effects will vary negatively with dealignment.
    Dealignment will be deconstructed into the following variables: those with weak or no party identification; those who decide late for which party to vote; those who switch between parties (or between abstention and a given party) from one election to the next, those who have superficial emotions in relation to leaders. Taken together, these three behavioural components signal a dealignment from the political process. If leaders matter in absolute and relative terms more for those who behave in a politically aligned way from election to election then we have a strong argument to show that leaders are not a sign of depoliticisation. We will also interact dealignment with degree of political sophistication. That is due to the fact that ultimately, if a dealigned sophisticated electorate is using leaders as a cue, that cannot be considered a sign of a debasing of elections either.
  • The importance of Leader Effects will be greater for mobilizing voters during the campaign period than for converting voters.
    Using panel data collected before and after electoral campaigns it will be possible to determine whether leader effects matter more as reinforcers of political predispositions, as mobilizers, or as outright converters of voters which voted for other parties. If leaders matter more as reinforcing and mobilizing mechanisms, they can be understood as proxies for voting behaviour.