How Second Order are Local Elections?

A defining characteristic of second-order elections is that voters base their decision on considerations that were developed for a different policy level. Therefore, this kind of elections does not contribute to the quality of democratic representation. Municipal elections are often considered as second-order elections. In this article, we use data from an exit poll (n = 4,591) held during the 2012 municipal elections in Belgium. Results suggest that although voters predominantly invoke local aspects as determining their vote choice, still three-quarters votes for the same party locally as for federal elections. Among voters who deviate from their federal party preference, knowing local candidates and concern about local policy issues are the main sources of deviation. The conclusion therefore is that local candidates do make a difference and contribute strongly to the salience of electoral decisions on the local level.

Key Words

Second-order electionlocal electionsBelgiumexit pollvote choice heuristics

This content has been updated on 14 October 2016 at 22 h 31 min.