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Selection and Sanctioning in European Parliamentary Elections

Abstract

Elections are inherently about selecting good candidates for public office and sanctioning incumbents for past performance. Yet, in the low salience context of ‘second-order elections’ to the European Parliament, empirical evidence suggests that voters sanction first-order national incumbents. However, no previous study has examined whether voters also use these elections to select good candidates. This article draws on a unique dataset on the political experience of party representatives in eighty-five national elections to the European Parliament to evaluate the extent to which voters prefer candidates with more political experience. The results show that selection considerations do matter. Parties that choose experienced top candidates are rewarded by voters. This effect is greatest when European elections are held in the middle of the national electoral cycle.

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1 Besley Timothy, ‘Political Selection’, Journal of Economic Perspectives in Politics, 19, no. 3 (2005), 4360.

2 Kramer Gerald H., ‘Short-Term Fluctuations in U.S. Voting Behavior, 1896–1964’, American Political Science Review, 65 (1971), 131143; Fearon James D., ‘Electoral Accountability and Control of Politicians: Selecting Good Types versus Sanctioning Poor Performance’, in Adam Przeworski, Susan C. Stokes and Bernard Manin, eds, Democracy, Accountability, and Representation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 5597; Duch Raymond M. and Stevenson Randolph, The Economic Vote: How Political And Economic Institutions Condition Election Results (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).

3 E.g., Jacobson Gary C. and Kernell Samuel, Strategy and Choice in Congressional Elections (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1983); Squire Peverill, ‘Candidates, Money, and Voters: Assessing the State of Congressional Election Research’, Politics Research Quarterly, 48 (1995), 891917; Carson Jamie, Jenkins Jeffery A., Rohde David W. and Souva Mark A., ‘The Impact of National Tides and District-Level Effects on Electoral Outcomes: The U.S. Congressional Elections of 1962–63’, American Journal of Political Science, 45 (2001), 887898.

4 Reif Karlheinz and Schmitt Hermann, ‘Nine Second-Order National Elections – A Conceptual Framework for the Analysis of European Election Results’, European Journal of Political Research, 8 (1980), 344; van der Eijk Cees and Franklin Mark, Choosing Europe? The European Electorate and National Politics in the Face of the Union (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996); Marsh Michael, ‘Testing the Second-Order Election Model after Four European Elections’, British Journal of Political Science, 28 (1998), 591607; Hix Simon and Marsh Michael, ‘Punishment or Protest? Understanding European Parliament Elections’, Journal of Politics, 69 (2007), 495510; van der Brug Wouter and van der Eijk Cees, European Elections and Domestic Politics: Lessons from the Past and Scenarios for the Future (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007).

5 Banks Jeffrey and Sundaram Rangarajan K., ‘Adverse Selection and Moral Hazard in a Repeated Elections Model’, in W. A. Barnett, Melvin J. Hinich and Norman Schofield, eds, Political Economy: Institutions, Competition, and Representation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

6 Key V. O., The Responsible Electorate (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1966); Fiorina Morris P., Retrospective Voting in American National Elections (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1981); Manin Bernard, The Principles of Representative Government (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); Bingham Powell G., Elections as Instruments of Democracy: Majoritarian and Proportional Visions (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2000).

7 Besley, ‘Political Selection’; Fearon, ‘Electoral Accountability and Control of Politicians’; Herreros Francisco, ‘Screening before Sanctioning: Elections and the Republican Tradition’, European Journal of Political Theory, 5 (2006), 415435; Duch and Stevenson, The Economic Vote.

8 Mansbridge Jane, ‘Rethinking Representation’, American Political Science Review, 97 (2003), 515528, p. 521.

9 Ferejohn John, ‘The Spatial Model and Elections’, in B. Grofman, ed., Information, Participation and Choice. An Economic Theory of Democracy in Perspective (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1993).

10 Fearon, ‘Electoral Accountability and Control of Politicians: Selecting Good Types versus Sanctioning Poor Performance’.

11 Shepsle Kenneth A. and Bonchek Mark S., Analyzing Politics: Rationality, Behavior and Institutions (London: W. W. Norton, 1997), p. 361.

12 Squire, ‘Candidates, Money, and Voters’.

13 An exception to this is Duch and Stevenson, The Economic Vote. This cross-national study of economic voting presents a selection rather than a sanctioning model to explain the economic vote.

14 Key, The Responsible Electorate; Fiorina, Retrospective Voting in American National Elections; Ferejohn John, ‘Incumbent Performance and Electoral Control’, Public Choice, 50 (1986), 525; Lewis-Beck Michael, Economics and Elections: The Major Western Democracies (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1988).

15 Besley Timothy and Coate Stephen, ‘An Economic Model of Representative Democracy’, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 112 (1997), 85114; Besley, ‘Political Selection’; Caselli Francesco and Morelli Massimo, ‘Bad Politicians’, Journal of Public Economics, 88 (2004), 759782.

16 Besley Timothy, Pande Rohini and Rao Vijayendra, ‘Selection and the Quality of Government: Evidence from South India’ (Yale University Economic Growth Center, Discussion Paper 21, 2005), p. 2.

17 See Jacobson and Kernell, Strategy and Choice in Congressional Elections; Ian Lublin David, ‘Quality, Not Quantity: Strategic Politicians in U.S. Senate Elections, 1952–1990’, Journal of Politics, 56 (1994), 228241; Squire, ‘Candidates, Money, and Voters’; Carson et al., ‘The Impact of National Tides and District-Level Effects on Electoral Outcomes’; Stone Walter, Mausel Sandy and Maestas Cherie D., ‘Counts: Extending the Strategic Politician Model of Incumbent Deterrence’, American Journal of Political Science, 48 (2004), 478495; Brown Adam M., ‘Strategic Politicians in Gubernational Elections’ (doctoral dissertation, University of California, San Diego, 2008).

18 Squire, ‘Candidates, Money, and Voters’, p. 893.

19 E.g., Jacobson and Kernell, Strategy and Choice in Congressional Elections; Lublin, ‘Quality, Not Quantity’.

20 E.g., Krasno Jonathan S. and Green Donald P., ‘Preempting Quality Challengers in House Elections’, Journal of Politics 50 (1988), 920936; Brown, ‘Strategic Politicians in Gubernational Elections’.

21 E.g., Stone, Mausel and Maestas, ‘Counts: Extending the Strategic Politician Model of Incumbent Deterrence’.

22 Squire, ‘Candidates, Money, and Voters’.

23 Van der Eijk and Franklin, Choosing Europe?; de Vreese Claes H., Banducci Susan and Semetko Holli A., ‘The News Coverage of the 2004 European Parliamentary Election Campaign in 25 Countries’, European Union Politics 7 (2006), 477504.

24 Marsh, ‘Testing the Second-Order Election Model after Four European Elections’; Reif Karlheinz, ‘National Election Cycles and European Elections, 1979 and 1984’, Electoral Studies, 3 (1984), 244255; Reif and Schmitt, ‘Nine Second-Order National Elections’; Van der Eijk and Franklin, Choosing Europe?; Carrubba Cliff and Timpone Richard J., ‘Explaining Vote Switching Across First- and Second-Order Elections: Evidence From Europe’, Comparative Political Studies, 38 (2005), 260281; Van der Brug and van der Eijk, European Elections and Domestic Politics; Hix and Marsh, ‘Punishment or Protest?’

25 Campbell Angus, ‘Surge and Decline: A Study of Electoral Change’, Public Opinion Quarterly, 24 (1960), 397418.

26 Marsh, ‘Testing the Second-Order Election Model after Four European Elections’; Reif, ‘National Election Cycles and European Elections, 1979 and 1984’.

27 Fiorina, Retrospective Voting in American National Elections; Kousser Thaddeus, ‘Retrospective Voting and Strategic Behaviour in European Parliament Elections’, Electoral Studies, 23 (2004), 121; Tufte Edward, ‘Determinants of the Outcomes of Midterm Congressional Elections’, American Political Science Review, 69 (1975), 812826.

28 Føllesdal Andreas and Hix Simon, ‘Why There is a Democratic Deficit in the EU: A Response to Majone and Moravcsik’, Journal of Common Market Studies, 44 (2006), 533562.

29 De Vreese, Banducci and Semetko, ‘The News Coverage of the 2004 European Parliamentary Election Campaign in 25 Countries’; Van der Brug and van der Eijk, European Elections and Domestic Politics.

30 Reif, ‘National Election Cycles and European Elections, 1979 and 1984’; Van der Eijk and Franklin, Choosing Europe?; Hix and Marsh, ‘Punishment or Protest?’; Ferrara Federico and Timo Weishaupt J., ‘Get Your Act Together: Party Performance in European Parliament Elections’, European Union Politics, 5 (2004), 283306; Marsh, ‘Testing the Second-Order Election Model after Four European Elections’; Kousser, ‘Retrospective Voting and Strategic Behaviour in European Parliament Elections’.

31 Scarrow Susan E., ‘Political Career Paths and the European Parliament’, Legislative Studies Quarterly, 22 (1997), 253263.

32 Norris Pippa and Franklin Mark, ‘Social Representation’, European Journal of Political Research, 32 (1997), 153164.

33 Scarrow, ‘Political Career Paths and the European Parliament’.

34 Reif and Schmitt, ‘Nine Second-Order National Elections’; Van der Eijk and Franklin, Choosing Europe?; Marsh, ‘Testing the Second-Order Election Model after Four European Elections’; Hix and Marsh, ‘Punishment or Protest?’; Van der Brug and van der Eijk, European Elections and Domestic Politics; Hobolt Sara B., Spoon Jae-Jae and Tilley James, ‘A Vote Against Europe? Explaining Defection at the 1999 and 2004 European Elections’, British Journal of Political Science, 39 (2009), 93115.

35 Farrell David M. and Scully Roger M., Representing Europe's Citizens? Electoral Institutions and the Failure of Parliamentary Representation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

36 There may still be a bias in our analyses due to the fact that we only have data on successful candidates. The magnitude of this bias is, however, unlikely to be very large when using this operationalization of experience, since the most experienced candidate of a party will almost always be among the successful candidates. Moreover, as a robustness check, Model 3 in Appendix Table A1 shows a re-estimation of our main results with mean rather than maximum level of experience as the key explanatory variable.

37 See Lupia Arthur and McCubbins Mathew D., The Democratic Dilemma: Can Citizens Learn What They Need to Know? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

38 Fearon, ‘Electoral Accountability and Control of Politicians’.

39 Morgan R., Times Guide to the European Parliament 1994 (London: Times Books, 1994); Wood A., Times Guide to the European Parliament 1979 (London: Times Books, 1979); Wood A., Times Guide to the European Parliament 1984 (London: Times Books, 1984); Wood A., Times Guide to the European Parliament 1989 (London: Times Books, 1989).

40 E.g., Mansbridge, ‘Rethinking Representation’.

41 Squire , ‘Candidates, Money, and Voters’, pp. 893–4.

42 Owing to the continuing expansion of the EU, nine countries participated in the 1979 EP elections, ten in 1984, twelve in 1989 and 1994; fifteen in 1999 and twenty-five in 2004.

43 The curious reader might like to know that there is no significant relationship between the difference in the turnout in national and EP elections and the experience of the top candidates.

44 E.g., Hix and Marsh, ‘Punishment or Protest?’

45 We thank one of the Journal's reviewers for pointing this out.

46 We do not estimate the squared and cubed effects of Vote share as initial investigations showed effects of an implausible magnitude under this specification. The substantive results of the key variables of interest for our investigation remained the same.

47 Marsh, ‘Testing the Second-Order Election Model after Four European Elections’; Reif, ‘National Election Cycles and European Elections, 1979 and 1984’.

48 Hix and Marsh, ‘Punishment or Protest?’

49 Van der Eijk and Franklin, Choosing Europe? Carrubba and Timpone, ‘Explaining Vote Switching Across First- and Second-Order Elections’; Hix and Marsh, ‘Punishment or Protest?’

50 Hobolt, Spoon and Tilley, ‘A Vote Against Europe?’

51 Hix and Marsh, ‘Punishment or Protest?’

52 Farrell and Scully, Representing Europe's Citizens?

53 Farrell David, Hix Simon, Johnson Mark and Scully Roger, ‘EPRG 2000 and 2006 MEP Surveys Dataset’ (available at: http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/EPRG/, 2006); Farrell and Scully, Representing Europe's Citizens?

54 Farrell and Scully, Representing Europe's Citizens?

55 Farrell and Scully, Representing Europe's Citizens?, p. 77.

56 Farrell and Scully, Representing Europe's Citizens?, p. 77. The coding is as follows: Austria 2.9, Belgium 2.9, Cyprus 2.9, Czech Republic 2.9, Denmark 7.1, Estonia 7.1, Finland 7.1, France 1.4, Germany 1.4, Greece, 1.4, Hungary 1.4, Ireland 10, Italy 7.1, Latvia 2.9, Lithuania 7.1, Luxembourg 7.1, Malta 10, Netherlands 2.9, Poland 1.4, Portugal 1.4, Slovenia 2.9, Slovakia 2.9, Spain 1.4, Sweden 2.9 and United Kingdom 1.4 (1979–94 = 4.3).

57 E.g. Hix and Marsh, ‘Punishment or Protest?’

58 Hix Simon, Noury Abdul and Roland Gerard, Democracy in the European Parliament (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

59 Van der Eijk and Franklin, Choosing Europe?

60 The Bonferroni outlier test revealed four outliers in the fixed effects model. We removed these observations and reran the analysis. We also reran Models 4 and 5 with a party mean level of political expertise. The substantive results still hold. See Table 1A in the Appendix.

61 To simplify matters, we calculated the effect for social democratic parties, the reference category. Year and country effects are ignored.

62 We also investigated whether the difference in turnout from the previous national election mattered for the effect of experience. It did not. The correlation between difference in turnout and experience is weak.

* Hobolt: Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford (email: ); Høyland: Center for International Climate and Environmental Research – Oslo (CICERO), and Centre for the Study of Civil War (CSCW), Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO). The authors would like to thank Ray Duch, Simon Hix, Simon Hug, Oddbjørn Knutsen, Michael Marsh, James Tilley, Hugh Ward, Albert Weale and Alan Wiseman as well as the anonymous reviewers for very useful comments. Earlier versions of this article were presented at the Midwest Political Science Association Meeting in 2007, the biannual meeting of the European Union Studies Association in 2007, the annual meeting of the Norwegian Political Science Association, as well as at the University of Oslo, the Free University of Brussels and the London School of Economics. We are also grateful to Simon Hix and Michael Marsh for giving us access to their data on European Parliament elections.

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British Journal of Political Science
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