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2nd European Conference on Comparative Electoral Research

True European VoterMannheim Centre for European Social ResearchAristotle University of Thessaloniki
2nd European Conference on Comparative Electoral Research
Theme: The Context of Electoral Behaviour
11-14 April 2013, Rhodes, Greece

Academic programme

Organized by the Department of Political Sciences
Laboratory of Applied Political Research, Aristotle University Thessaloniki
in collaboration with the School of Humanities, Aegean University, Rhodes island

Academic convenors:
Hermann Schmitt (Universities of Manchester and Mannheim)
Paolo Segatti (University of Milan)
Eftichia Teperoglou (MZES, Germany and CIES-IUL, Portugal)

Local conference organizers:
Theodore Chadjipadelis-Ioannis Andreadis and Kostas Tsolakidis-Kostas Vratsalis

Comparative electoral studies have developed greatly over the past two decades. The number of publications has increased, but also the scope of comparison. That scope is reflected in the number of contexts compared, where the ‘context’ can be distinguished in terms of political systems, time, levels of government or any combination of these.

This blossoming of comparative electoral research has been promoted by many factors, amongst which particularly the investments made over the past decades in the development of survey data that lend themselves to comparative analyses. A large number of projects have evolved that aim explicitly at producing high-quality cross-national comparative survey data. Only some of these, such as the CSES and the European Election Studies, focus explicitly on electoral processes, but in spite of this focus they are (compared to national election studies) relatively ‘thin’ in terms of variables and topics covered. Other datasets have a wider scope and are therefore narrower in their coverage of information pertaining to political processes, but they nevertheless contain often some relevant information for the comparative study of elections. Such studies include the Eurobarometer (and its counterparts in Africa and Latin America), the World Values Studies, European Values Studies, European Social Survey, the ISPP, and so on. The website of the CSES lists and provides links to a large number of such comparative data collection projects in the general field of elections, parties and public opinion (http://www.umich.edu/~cses/about.htm). Comparison across time is also facilitated by the wider availability of longitudinal data, particularly as national election studies, conducted at every general or presidential election, generate ever longer series of observations - and the number of countries in which such national election studies are conducted has also grown. These series of national election studies can, of course, also be used for cross-national comparison, and a venerable tradition of such research exists. Yet, using national election studies for cross-national comparative analysis raises serious challenges caused by differences in terms of question wordings and formats and in terms of in- or exclusion of topics. There have been numerous efforts to overcome these problems of comparability, including ‘The European Voter’ which built a database from 6 countries and published the eponymic book edited by Jacques Thomassen (2005). Building on the achievements of this project, the ‘True European Voter’ (TEV) Cost Action (see http://true-european-voter.eu) intends to advance our understanding of electoral democracy in the whole of Europe, including the West, the South and the East of the continent, with currently 26 countries involved. The project deliverables (a micro and macro datasets, several books, a series of methodological Winterschools and conferences) will strengthen the capacity of researchers to conduct methodologically advanced, information-rich comparative research by constructing the necessary database and by enabling individual researchers to properly analyze it. To deepen the knowledge about the electoral connection between voters and parties and how to study it, the Data Working Group of TEV is organising this Second European Conference on Comparative Electoral Research. We hope to reach colleagues (based in Europe or overseas), also from beyond the teams involved in the True European Voter project, in order to collectively discuss the role context in electoral research.

The conference aims to provide an open platform for presentation, exchange and discussion of original and explicitly comparative and empirical electoral research. Its focus is on contextual effects on electoral behaviour, and more in particular on the question how different contexts moderate the process of electoral choice.

The conference will offer some plenary events with keynote speakers and discussions in a round-table format, plus panel sessions chaired and discussed by members of the TEV project. For these sessions, we invite submission of paper proposals with a focus on contextual variation in the determination of electoral choices. Electoral choice obviously includes electoral participation as well as the choice of a given party or candidate, but prospective paper givers should not limit themselves to turnout and choice as dependent variables. Those who study other aspects of electoral behaviour such as involvement in election campaigns (e.g. discussing politics, attending meetings, visiting parties websites, using social medias or Voting Advice Applications), the (un)certainty and timing of the vote choice, the processing of information, the impact of positive and negative emotions, may fit the conference theme very well as long as the proposed papers are comparative and empirical in character.

Context is equally broadly understood here. We welcome papers that explore different hierarchical levels of context (interpersonal, neighbourhood, constituency, nation) as well as those focussing on different dimensions of contextual variation, like the political context (e.g. electoral systems), the social context (e.g. the relative gravity of social divisions), the economic context (e.g. economic crises) or the cultural context (e.g. clientelism), to name but a few.

Above all (but not excluding other proposals) we hope to receive paper abstracts focusing on the following questions:

  • How do different contexts affect vote choices broadly defined? Papers in this section are thought to be typically using macro-level data in addressing their research question. Examples include the relationship between electoral systems and turnout levels; ideological polarisation and party system stability; economic crises and the success of minor and extreme parties; the location of elections in the electoral cycle and the success of government parties; to name but a few. We hope that this kind of papers will further our understanding about the kind of contexts that affect the electoral process and its outcome.
  • How exactly are different context dimensions interacting with various determinants of vote choices? Papers in this section will typically relate individual-level analytical models to macro-level data specifying particular context characteristics. Examples here are, among many others, the interaction between electoral systems and the explanatory success of models of electoral participation; the interaction between ideological polarisation and the relative prominence of ideology as a predictor of vote choices; or the interaction between the political regime (parliamentary or presidential) and the importance of political leaders for the determination of the vote. We hope that this kind of papers will contribute to systematic insights into the kind of context characteristics that moderate the explanatory importance of individual-level characteristics.
  • What are appropriate methodological tools to determine the effect of the various context dimensions on the voting function? Papers in this category will, we hope, address analytical questions pertaining to strategies to assess equivalence and comparability, approaches to increase comparability, methods to handle differences in party systems, methods to handle the multilevel structure of datasets, etc. We also look forward to papers addressing challenges for comparative research emanating from differences in data collection, and possible procedures to ameliorate these. We hope that this kind of papers will contribute into insights about the datasets available for studying elections (both those truly comparative and those combining national surveys) and the relevant methods to handle them in analysis.

Paper proposals (using the submission form) should be sent by 28 February to tev.eccer@gmail.com. Proposals should contain a title and an abstract (up to 400 words), with concise information about research questions, theoretical approach, study design, data, and expected results.

Authors will be notified by March 3. Contributions to travel and accommodation costs are available for a limited number of paper givers (on the basis of an accepted proposal and complementing other funding). Authors seeking such support will be notified by March 10.