Hermann Schmitt, Sara Hobolt, Sebastian Adrian Popa
Does personalization increase turnout? Spitzenkandidaten in the 2014 European Parliament elections

European Union Politics, 2015: 16, issue 3, pp. 347–368
ISSN: 1465-1165 (print): 1741-2757 (online)

The 2014 European Parliament elections were the first elections where the major political groups each nominated a lead candidate (Spitzenkandidat) for the Commission presidency in the hope that this would increase the visibility of the elections and mobilize more citizens to turn out. Using data from the 2014 European Elections Study, an EU-wide post-election survey, we analyse whether and how the presence of the lead candidates influenced the individual probability to participate in these elections. Our findings show that the recognition of the candidates increased the propensity to turn out, even when controlling for a host of other individual-level factors explaining turnout and the context factors known to facilitate participation. Furthermore, the campaign efforts of the lead candidates are associated with higher turnout levels and are reinforced by candidate recognition.