Eva Heida Önnudottir, Hermann Schmitt, Ólafur Harðarson
Critical election in the wake of an economic and political crisis: Realignment of Icelandic party voters?

Scandinavian Political Studies, 2017: 40, Heft 2, S. 157-181
ISSN: 0080-6757 (print), 1467-9477 (online)

A critical election is generally defined as one in which the decisive results of voting reveal a sharp alternation of pre-existing cleavage(s) and voting patterns, and the dealignment or realignment made between parties is lasting. A critical election can be caused by various factors and in this article the authors analyse whether the global credit crunch in 2008 set things in motion in Iceland, resulting in the 2009 election as a critical election. In that election, the electoral relevance of voters’ psychological attachment to parties and of ideological distances to them weakened, whereas party competence perceptions increased in importance for vote choices. Attachment to parties and ideological distances are factors that are generally stable and change slowly over time, while party competence is influenced by which issues are of importance at the time of the election. This indicates that, in 2009, a restructuring of the determinants of the vote occurred; a pattern of changes that is typical for a critical election. Evidence is found that the importance of party sympathy increases again in the 2013 election, indicating a realignment, rather than a dealignment, occurring in the wake of the 2009 election.