Selecting the dependent variable in electoral studies: choice or preference?

Authored by: Cees van der Eijk

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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One of the central questions in electoral research concerns the understanding of individual behavior that, in the aggregate, produces election outcomes. This chapter focuses on that aspect of this behavior that involves electoral support for parties or candidates, while only cursorily touching upon the electoral participation aspect. The apparent simplicity of the notion of party support does not encourage conceptual reflection on the phenomenon under study, which can be referred to in terms of either choice (between parties or candidates) or preference. These two terms are very frequently treated as synonyms. Yet, there are good reasons to keep them conceptually distinct, and doing so has practical consequences for the way they are studied.

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