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A Two-Stage Theory of Discussant Influence on Vote Choice in Multiparty Systems

Abstract

This article addresses two aspects of social network influence on voters’ electoral choices that are not well understood: the role of party systems as institutional contexts and the relationship between social pressure and information sharing as mechanisms of influence. It argues that in the cleavage-based multiparty systems of Western Europe, discussant influence at elections occurs in two stages. First, discussants place social pressure on voters to opt for parties from the same ideological camp. Secondly, by providing information, discussants influence which parties voters eventually choose out of these restricted ‘consideration sets’. The study tests these assumptions using a panel survey conducted at the 2009 German federal election. The first proposition is clearly confirmed, and the evidence supports the second proposition, although less unequivocally.

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University of Mannheim (emails: schmitt-beck@uni-mannheim.de, julia.partheymueller@mzes.uni-mannheim.de). For important inspiration and support in preparing this article we are indebted to Hans Hassell, Josephine Hörl, Oana Lup, Patricia Moy, Thomas Plischke, Thomas Poguntke, Anne Schäfer, Richard Traunmüller, Bernhard Weßels, Line Winterhoff as well as three anonymous reviewers. The data used in this article are available for free download at http://www.gesis.org/gles. Online appendices and data replication sets are available at http://dx.doi.org/doi: 10.1017/S0007123414000301

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British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
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