Skip to main content

Contextual effects on individual voting behaviour: the impact of party system nationalization in Europe

  • Nicola Maggini (a1) and Vincenzo Emanuele (a2)

This article has the purpose to assess if and how party system nationalization affects individual voting behaviour. Previous studies on party system nationalization have focused on systemic processes, exclusively dealing with aggregate data. The authors address this topic from a new empirical perspective, arguing that party system nationalization could act as a context dimension interacting with the vote choice function. How does this specific context dimension moderate the explanatory power of individual-level characteristics? On which determinants of vote choice does party system nationalization have a greater impact? To answer these questions, the authors focus on 23 European countries through the use of the 2009 European Election Study. The empirical analysis shows that in nationalized contexts the impact of the left-right dimension on party support is higher than in territorialized contexts, whereas that of class as well as of culture-related variables is lower. The authors also discuss the implications of these findings.

Corresponding author
Hide All
Agnew J. (1987), Place and Politics. The Geographical Mediations of State and Society, London: Allen and Unwin.
Andreadis I. (2011), Indexes of party nationalization. Paper presented at The True European Voter Conference, September 23, University of Wien, Austria.
Bartolini S. (2000), The Political Mobilization of the European Left, 1860–1980: The Class Cleavage, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Bartolini S.and Mair P. (1990), Identity, Competition, and Electoral Availability: The Stabilisation of European Electorates 1885–1985, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Berelson B., Lazarsfeld P.F., and McPhee W.N. (1954), Voting. A Study of Opinion Formation in a Presidential Campaign, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Bochsler D. (2010a), ‘Measuring party nationalisation: a new Gini-based indicator that corrects for the number of units’, Electoral Studies 29: 155168.
Bochsler D. (2010b), ‘The nationalization of post-communist party systems’, Europe-Asia Studies 62: 807827.
Brambor T., Clark W.R., and Golder M. (2006), ‘Understanding interaction models: improving empirical analyses’, Political Analysis 14(1): 6382.
Campbell A., Converse P.E., Miller W.E., and Stokes D. (1960), The American Voter, New York, NY: Wiley.
Caramani D. (2004), The Nationalization of Politics: The Formation of National Electorates and Party Systems in Western Europe, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Caramani D. (2005), ‘The formation of national party systems in Europe: a comparative-historical analysis’, Scandinavian Political Studies 28(4): 295322.
Castañeda-Angarita N. (2013), ‘Party system nationalization, presidential coalitions, and government spending’, Electoral Studies 30(1): 112.
Chhibber P. and Kollman K. (2004), The formation of National party systems: Federalism and party competition in Canada, Great Britain, India, and the United States, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Chhibber P. and Kollman K. (2004), The Formation of National Party Systems: Federalism and Party Competition in Canada, Great Britain, India, and the United States, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Chiaramonte A. (2007), ‘Il nuovo sistema partitico italiano tra bipolarismo e frammentazione’, in R. D’Alimonte and A. Chiaramonte (eds), Proporzionale ma non solo. Le elezioni politiche del 2006, Bologna: Il Mulino, 369406.
Converse P.E. (1975), ‘Public opinion and voting behaviour’, in F.I. Greenstein and N.W. Polsby (eds), Handbook of Political Science 4, Reading, UK: Addison-Wesley, 75169.
Cox G.W. (1997), Making Votes Count. Strategic Consideration in the World’s Electoral Systems, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Cox G.W. (1999), ‘Electoral rules and electoral coordination’, Annual Review of Political Science 2: 145161.
Dalton R.J. (2002), ‘Political cleavage, issues, and electoral change’, in L. Le Duc, R.G. Niemi and P. Norris (eds), Comparing Democracy 2: New Challenges in the Study of Elections and Voting, London: SAGE Publications, 189209.
Dalton R.J., and Anderson C.J. (eds). (2011), Citizens, Context, and Choice: How Context Shapes Citizens’ Electoral Choices, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Dalton R.J., Flanagan S.C., and Beck P.A. (1984), Electoral Change in Advanced Industrial Democracies, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Demidenko E. (2004), Mixed Models: Theory and Applications, Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
De Sio L. and Franklin M.N. (2012), ‘Strategic incentives, issue proximity and party system support in Europe’, West European Politics 35(6): 13631385.
De Winter L. and Dumont P. (1999), ‘Belgium: party system(s) on the eve of disintegration?’, in D. Broughton and M. Donovan (eds), Changing Party Systems in Western Europe, London and New York, NY: Pinter, 183206.
Downs A. (1957), An Economic Theory of Democracy, New York, NY: Harper and Row.
Duverger M. (1951), Political Parties: Their Organization and Activity in the Modern State, New York, NY: Wiley.
Elster J., Offe C., and Preuss U.K. (1998), Institutional Design in Post-Communist Societies, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Ersson S., Janda K., and Lane J.-E. (1985), ‘Ecology of party strength in Western Europe. A regional analysis’, Comparative Political Studies 18: 170205.
Evans G. and Need A. (2002), ‘Explaining ethnic polarization over attitudes towards minority rights in Eastern Europe: a multilevel analysis’, Social Science Research 31(4): 653680.
Franklin M., Mackie T., and Valen H. (eds). (1992), Electoral Change. Responses to Evolving Social and Attitudinal Structures in Western Countries, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gallagher M. (1998), ‘Il comportamento elettorale in Irlanda dal 1969 al 1997’, Quaderni dell’Osservatorio Elettorale 40: 7198.
Grilli di Cortona P. (2007), ‘Polonia: un sistema partitico in cerca di istituzionalizzazione’, in P.G. di Cortona and G. Pasquino (eds), Partiti e Sistemi di Partito Nelle Democrazie Contemporanee, Bologna: Il Mulino, 213242.
Hicken A., Kollman K., and Simmons J. (2008), ‘Party system nationalization and the provision of public health services’. Working Paper, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.
Hirschman A. (1970), Exit, Voice and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations and States, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Huckfeldt R. and Sprague J. (1993), ‘Citizens, contexts, and politics’, in A.W. Finifter (ed.), Political Science: The State of the Discipline II, Washington, DC: American Political Science Association, 281303.
Jones M.P. and Mainwaring S. (2003), ‘The nationalization of parties and party systems: an empirical measure and an application to the Americas’, Party Politics 9: 139166.
Klingemann H.-D. (2009), ‘The impact of political institutions: a contribution of the ‘Comparative Study of Electoral Systems’ (CSES) to micro-macro theories of political attitude formation and voting behavior’, in H.-D. Klingemann (ed.), The Comparative Study of Electoral Systems, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 327.
Kuechler M. (1991), ‘Issues and voting in the European elections 1989’, European Journal of Political Research 19: 81103.
Laakso M. and Taagepera R. (1979), ‘“Effective” number of parties: A measure with application to West Europe’, Comparative Political Studies 12: 327.
Lago I. and Lago S. (2010), ‘Decentralization and nationalization of party systems’. International Studies Program Working Paper No. 10/06, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA.
Lane J.E. and Ersson S. (1990), ‘Comparative politics: From political sociology to comparative public policy’, in A. Leftwitch (ed.), New developments in political science: An International Review of Past Achievements and Future Prospects, London: Elgar, 6181.
Lazarsfeld P., Berelson B., and Gaudet H. (1944), The People’s Choice. How the Voter Makes Up his Mind in a Presidential Campaign, New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Lipset S.M. and Rokkan S. (1967), ‘Cleavage structures, party systems and voter alignments: an introduction’, in S.M. Lipset and S. Rokkan (eds), Party Systems and Voter Alignments: Cross-National Perspectives, New York, NY: The Free Press, 164.
Marsh M. (2002), ‘Electoral context’, Electoral Studies 21: 207217.
McCulloch C.E., Searle S.R., and Neuhaus J.M. (2008), Generalized, Linear, and Mixed Models, 2nd edn., Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Morgenstern S., Polga-Hecimovich J., and Siavelis P.M. (2014), ‘Seven imperatives for improving the measurement of party nationalization with evidence from Chile’, Electoral Studies 33(1): 186199.
Morgenstern S., Swindle S.M., and Castagnola A. (2009), ‘Party nationalization and institutions’, Journal of Politics 71: 13221341.
O’Brien R.M. (2007), ‘A caution regarding rules of thumb for variance inflation factors’, Quality & Quantity 41(5): 673690.
Rabe-Hesketh S. and Skrondal A. (2008), Multilevel and Longitudinal Modeling Using Stata, 2nd edn., College Station, TX: Stata Press.
Reif K. and Schmitt H. (1980), ‘Nine second order national elections. A conceptual framework for the analysis of European election results’, European Journal of Political Research 8(1): 344.
Rokkan S. (1970), Citizens, Elections, Parties, Oslo, Norway: Universitetsforlaget.
Rokkan S. and Urwin D.W. (eds). (1982), The Politics of Territorial Identity. Studies in European Regionalism, London, UK: Sage.
Rose R. and Urwin D.W. (1975), Regional Differentiation and Political Unity in Western Nations, Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Sartori G. (1976), Parties and Party Systems: A Framework of Analysis, New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Schattschneider E.E. (1960), The Semi-Sovereign People: A Realist’s View of Democracy in America, New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
Searle S.R., Casella G., and McCulloch C.E. (1992), Variance Components, New York, NY: Wiley.
Siegfried A. (1913), Tableu Politique de la France de l’Ouest Sous la Troisième République, Paris: A. Colin.
Sikk A. (2005), ‘How unstable? Volatility and the genuinely new parties in Eastern Europe’, European Journal of Political Research 44: 391412.
Sikk A. and Bochsler D. (2008), ‘Impact of ethnic heterogeneity on party nationalization in the Baltic states: the nationalisation of party systems in Central and Eastern Europe’. Paper presented at the ECPR Joint Sessions of Workshop, April 11--16, University of Rennes.
Smith E.R.A.N. (1989), The Unchanging American Voter, Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.
Stokes D.E. (1965), ‘A variance components model of political effects’, in J.M. Claunch (ed.), Mathematical Applications in Political Science, Dallas, TX: Southern Methodist University Press, 6185.
Stokes D.E. (1967), ‘Parties and the nationalization of electoral forces’, in W.N. Chambers and W.D. Burnham (eds), The American Party Systems: Stages of Political Development, New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 182202.
Tavits M. (2005), ‘The development of stable party support: electoral dynamics in post-communist Europe’, American Journal of Political Science 49(2): 283298.
Tilly C. (ed.) (1975), The Formation of National States in Western Europe, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Thomassen J.J.A (ed.) (2005), The European Voter. A Comparative Study of Modern Democracies, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Torsvik P. (1981), Mobilization, Center-Periphery Structures and Nation Building. A Volume in Commemoration of Stein Rokkan, Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.
Urwin D.W. (1982), ‘Territorial structures and political development in the United Kingdom’, in S. Rokkan and D.W. Urwin (eds), The Politics of Territorial Identity. Studies in European Regionalism, London, UK: Sage, 1974.
van der Brug W., Franklin M.N., and Toka G. (2008), ‘One electorate or many? Differences in party preference formation between new and established European democracies’, Electoral Studies 27(4): 589600.
van der Eijk C. and Franklin M.N. (1996), Choosing Europe? The European Electorate and National Politics in the Face of the Union, Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.
van der Eijk C. and Franklin M.N. (2009), Elections and Voters, Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
van der Eijk C., van der Brug W., Kroh M., and Franklin M.N. (2006), ‘Rethinking the dependent variable in voting behaviour: on the measurement and analysis of electoral utilities’, Electoral Studies 25(3): 424447.
van Egmond M., van der Brug W.Hobold S.Franklin M.N. and Sapir E.V. (2011), European Parliament Election Study 2009, Voter Study, Köln, Germany: GESIS Datenarchiv.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Italian Political Science Review / Rivista Italiana di Scienza Politica
  • ISSN: 0048-8402
  • EISSN: 2057-4908
  • URL: /core/journals/italian-political-science-review-rivista-italiana-di-scienza-politica
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Maggini and Emanuele Dataset



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 7
Total number of PDF views: 36 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 665 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd February 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.