Interchangeable or Different? the Levels of Gross and Net Electoral Volatility in Eastern Europe

Tuesday, June 25, 2013
2.13 (Binnengasthuis)
Sergiu Gherghina , GESIS Cologne
Electoral volatility is a measurement developed to assess the intensity and nature of change in political support. As this support is the direct effect of two interrelated forces – voters as principals and political parties as agents – electoral change is measured and calculated separately on the demand (voters) and supply (parties) sides. On the one hand, at the individual level, gross electoral volatility refers to the total amount of vote switching in a party system (Crewe 1985). This measure basically gauges the electorate’s loyalty on a continuum with extremes at a situation in which no voters change their preferences in any way, and at an instance at which every single voter behaves differently than they did in the previous election. By focusing on vote shifts at the individual level, gross electoral volatility attempts to explain processes and phenomena within the political system with characteristics of the electorate and observed patterns like partisan dealignment and a decrease in party identification in mind. On the other hand, as individual data regarding voting behavior are not always available, net electoral volatility was considered an appropriate proxy to measure the aggregate vote transfers between political parties within a party system in subsequent elections. The measurement equivalence rests on the assumption that aggregate changes at various levels over time accurately reflect the corresponding levels in individual volatility (Bartolini and Mair 1990). Earlier research indicated that in Western Europe up to three quarters of the amount of gross electoral volatility being reflected in the measure of net electoral volatility (Lane and Ersson 1997). This paper investigates the relationship between gross and net (party level) electoral volatility in Eastern Europe, a region known for its low levels of partisanship, low continuity of parties, large number of splits and mergers, and high volatility rates (Bielasiak 1997; van Biezen 2003; Millard 2004; Sikk 2005; Spirova 2007; Tavits 2008; Gherghina 2012). The analysis includes the parties from 10 post-communist countries between 1996 and 2011 and uses individual level data from the CSES.