Think Nationally, Vote Locally: National Issues and Voting Behaviour in Local, Regional and European Elections in Spain

Thursday, July 13, 2017
East Quad Lecture Theatre (University of Glasgow)
Laura Cabeza Pérez , SOCLIFE - University of Cologne
The second-order election model is among the most influential conceptual frameworks for analyzing sub-national and supra-national election results. Yet, most studies focus on its aggregate predictions. According to this model, election results at any level are a by-product of the national government popularity because, instead of holding accountable sub-national or supra-national representatives, citizens presumably decide whether to vote and for whom on the grounds of the first-order national arena. Using data from election surveys in Spain, this article develops and tests a micro-level approach to the study of second-order effects in sub-national and supra-national elections. It is argued that in every election at local, regional or European level there are individuals that decide their vote – or whether to vote or not – on the basis of national considerations and individuals that make their decisions based on level-specific issues. Each election will show a different distribution of citizens that vote on the basis of national versus level-specific issues. Using a new dataset that combines data from a set of election surveys in Spain, this article analyzes (1) which individual characteristics encourage citizens to ‘think nationally’ in local, regional and European elections, and (2) whether the core assumptions of the second-order election model hold at the individual level leading to differences in terms of voting behaviour between those citizens that ‘think nationally’ and those who do not. Doing so, this research contributes to recent efforts that have already recognized the need to identify the individual mechanisms behind the second-order election model.