Electoral Volatility in Belgium


Increasing voter volatility has led to a renewed research interest in determinants of party switching. While previous research has mainly focused on the characteristics of volatile voters, less is known about how stable and volatile voters decide what party to vote for. Using panel data spanning two consecutive electoral cycles in Belgium, this study starts with the confirmation of earlier findings: we show that widely used determinants like political sophistication and disaffection add only modestly to our understanding of volatility. In a next step, we examine the vote choice process of stable and volatile voters. Our results indicate that in terms of determinants of the vote choice the two groups are somewhat different. In line with theoretical expectations about the effects of stronger voter volatility, we find that party switchers are guided more by proximity evaluations. The implication of these results is that party switchers might actually be enriching representative democracy. We close with some observations on how this finding qualifies our theoretical understanding of increasing levels of electoral volatility in liberal democracies.



This content has been updated on 16 April 2018 at 8 h 55 min.