Democratic theory and electoral behavior

Authored by: Ian McAllister

The Routledge Handbook of Elections, Voting Behaviorand Public Opinion

Print publication date:  September  2017
Online publication date:  September  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138890404
eBook ISBN: 9781315712390
Adobe ISBN:


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Normatively, democracy is a system of institutions, procedures and conventions. In practice, however, democracy is nothing without the citizens who provide it with form and substance. At democracy’s core are the beliefs, behavior and actions of citizens who make up the actual or potential democratic polity. As Angus Campbell and his colleagues put it in the seminal The American Voter study, “our approach is in the main dependent on the point of view of the actor” (Campbell et al. 1960: 27). Placing the citizen at the core of our understanding of democracy therefore provides a different perspective on how democracy operates, how it is changing, and perhaps most important of all, how it may change in the future. The purpose of this chapter is to outline how recent advances in the study of electoral behavior are altering democratic theory.

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