Political Leaders and Democratic Elections

Research question/goal: 

Mass electoral behaviour is portrayed to be changing. While long-term determinants such as social-structural locations and party identifications are becoming less important, the relevance of short-term factors - issues and candidates - is said to be increasing. On the background of processes of personalisation inherent in televised political communication, the effect of political leaders on the vote should particularly increase. However, leader effects are not only predicted to vary over time. Important variation is expected between political systems, parties, and even between different categories of voters. In presidential systems such as the U.S., for example, political leaders may be more in the foreground of political decision-making than their counterparts in parliamentary systems are. Similarly, leaders of large political parties are more likely to be the next head of government (and to have a decisive effect on the policy of the future government) and thus more important and visible than their colleagues from smaller parties. As regards different sorts of voters, finally, it seems obvious that "dealigned" citizens without stable attachments with a political party are more susceptible to leader effects on the vote than party identifiers are as are, for instance, poorly informed voters, and late (vote) deciders.

Fact sheet

2001 to 2004
Data Sources: 
National Election Study Surveys
Geographic Space: 
Western Democracies (9 countries with long series of national election studies)