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Published in: Public Choice 1-2/2018

07-06-2018

Polarization and ideological congruence between parties and supporters in Europe

Authors: Royce Carroll, Hiroki Kubo

Published in: Public Choice | Issue 1-2/2018

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Abstract

The relationship between parties and their supporters is central to democracy and ideological representation is among the most important of these linkages. We conduct an investigation of party-supporter congruence in Europe with emphasis on the measurement of ideology and focusing on the role of party system polarization, both as a direct factor in explaining congruence and in modifying the effects of voter sophistication. Understanding this relationship depends in part on how the ideology of parties and supporters is measured. We use Poole’s Blackbox scaling to derive a measure of latent ideology from voter and expert responses to issue scale questions and compare this to a measure based on left–right perceptions. We then examine how variation in the proximity between parties ideological positions and those of their supporters is affected by the polarization of the party system and how this relationship interacts with political sophistication. With the latent ideology measure, we find that polarization decreases party-supporter congruence but increases the effects of respondent education level on congruence. However, we do not find these relationships using the left–right perceptual measure. Our findings underscore important differences between perceptions of left–right labels and the ideological constraint underlying issue positions.
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Footnotes
1
Note that the scope of this paper is limited to measures developed in the work of Keith Poole, and is not therefore intended to addresses the wide array of possible measures for these purposes. This includes those with similar aims based on MP representation (Belchior et al. 2016; Belchior 2013), as well as a vast array of other measures that focus on some aspect of either polarization or congruence (e.g. Clark and Leiter 2014; Dalton 2006; Maoz and Somer-Topcu 2010; Rehm and Reilly 2010; Pardos-Prado and Dinas 2010; Ferland 2018; Klingemann et al. 2017).
 
2
See the Tables 3 and 4 in the Appendix for details. Although eight issues are recorded in each survey, a general question on lifestyle issues in the CHES lacks a sufficiently similar corresponding question within the EES, which refers to the specific matter of same-sex marriage. We otherwise erred on the side of including the remaining 11-point scale issue questions, but due to a relatively weak comparability between the EES EU control and CHES Nationalism questions, we instead use a rescaled version of the CHES 7-point EU Position variable because of its greater similarity to the EES question. However, we found similar results to those presented here when using the CHES Nationalism question. More generally, we note that choosing among various subsets of questions would certainly produce a variety of different results and these sensitivities are an area for future research. See the Appendix for a discussion of the face validity of the estimates.
 
3
We analyze the following questions in EES 2014. “QPP13: In political matters people talk of “the left” and “the right”. What is your position? Please use a scale from 0 to 10, where ‘0’ means “left” and ‘10’ means “right”. Which number best describes your position?” “QPP14: And about where would you place the following political parties on this scale? How about the...? Which number from 0 to 10, where ’0’ means “left” and ’10’ means “right” best describes this party?”.
 
4
Note that below we use the MLE implementation of Aldrich-McKelvey scaling described by Poole et al. (2016). While this results in losing observations from respondents with some missing stimuli responses, it has an advantage for current purposes in that it requires no assumptions about the location of the estimated stimuli locations (cf. Hare et al. 2015), which we rely on for both the congruence and polarization measures. Although we retain these observations in the sample presented below using the latent ideology measure, we find similar results on key variables for that analysis when the sample is restricted to those without missing values on the left–right perceptual measure. Note that we also remove 14 additional observations that produce extreme values outside of the proper range of the Aldrich-McKelvey estimates.
 
5
The parties associated with supporters are based on EES question pp21, which reads“Do you consider yourself to be close to any particular political party?”
 
6
Indeed many of the differences in the findings presented here are also likely to be directly related to the use of perceived versus expert positions for party locations between the measures.
 
7
The total number of respondents with information on party support is 15,341, 1,771 of which are unable to produce measures on either dependent variable due to missing data on issue or party placements. We also remove parties that have less than 5 usable supporter observations in the survey.
 
8
While the latent ideology measure establishes a comparable scale across countries via joint-scaling of all countries, the scores from the left–right perceptual measure are generated country-by-country. These data lack common stimuli across countries necessary to directly establish a cross-country common scale via Aldrich-McKelvey scaling. Without standardizing the range of the ideal points in the system in the left–right perceptual measure, surveys producing a wider absolute range of ideal points would appear to have both larger party polarization and larger voter–party gaps, resulting in correlations as an artifact of the scale differences.
 
9
A variety of further combinations we do not explore here would certainly yield even more variation in results such as this. We also avoid important and widely-discussed questions of how congruence and polarization should be calculated when using any underlying measure of ideological positions.
 
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Metadata
Title
Polarization and ideological congruence between parties and supporters in Europe
Authors
Royce Carroll
Hiroki Kubo
Publication date
07-06-2018
Publisher
Springer US
Published in
Public Choice / Issue 1-2/2018
Print ISSN: 0048-5829
Electronic ISSN: 1573-7101
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11127-018-0562-0

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