Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck
Political Systems and Electoral Behavior: a Review of Internationally Comparative Multilevel Research

Cross-national Comparative Research (Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie, Special Issue), 2019: 71, issue Suppl 1, pp. 343-373
ISSN: 0023-2653 (print); 1861-891X (online)

A significant body of internationally comparative research has been accumulated over the past decade that seeks a better understanding of electoral behavior by combining survey data on voters with system-level data on their countries in complex multilevel designs. The current paper offers a state-of-the-art review of this rapidly evolving landscape of research, which thus far has been mainly guided by two questions: (i) Which conditions promote voter turnout that is high and more egalitarian, thus giving citizens an equal say in politics? And (ii) Which conditions promote electoral choices that are in line with voters’ own interests, thus enhancing the role of elections as instruments for holding governments to account? While some studies primarily help to consolidate the field of comparative electoral behavior by taking more appropriate methodological approaches, others demonstrate with unprecedented clarity how individuals’ voting behavior is systematically moderated by institutional as well as socioeconomic features of country contexts. Whether and how you select among electoral candidates depends critically on where you live—this is the powerful message of cross-national multilevel research on voting behavior. By identifying important sources of heterogeneity in voters’ decision-making, this line of research profoundly questions the homogeneity assumption that has been a hallmark of electoral studies for decades.