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The 1989 European election: Protest or green tide?

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Abstract

The first two rounds of direct elections to the European Parliament have been characterized as a set of separate national second order elections in which turnout is low, small parties do well, and the electorate cast judgement on their governments rather than on European issues. Many of those features are apparent in the 1989 elections. But there was a community-wide movement towards the Greens which was not simply part of the general success for small parties, but the Greens' gains were not fully reflected in the distribution of Strasbourg seats. These elections may well give a significant boost to the success of Green parties in future national elections.

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... The few empirical analyses of party choice that employ aggregate-level EP electoral data have considered this complication. Curtice (1989) noted that, although parties composing a national executive on average perform badly, opposition parties do not fare much better; the crucial variable affecting party performance is party size, not participation in government. Similarly, Oppenhuis et al. (1996: 303) find 'no support whatsoever for the notion that government parties in particular stand to suffer from such [second-order] effects'. ...
... Oppenhuis et al. (1996) show that, whereas small centrist parties tend to benefit from the propensity of voters to cast their ballot sincerely in European elections held shortly after a national election, the performance of radical parties improves when voters 'put the boot in' in marker-setting elections. Curtice (1989), instead, finds evidence of a 'green tide,' but other studies (see Marsh, 1998: 602) concluded that the gains made by green parties are generally quite modest. We attempt to contribute to the establishment of whether ideology has anything to do with party performance in EP elections by evaluating whether parties belonging to three broadly defined party families (extreme left, extreme right, and green) make systematic gains in Europe-wide competitions. ...
... Whereas the gains made by radical left and right parties may be conditional upon the electorate's inclination to express a strong protest vote , green parties may expect, in several member countries, to benefit simultaneously from sincere, strategic, and protest voting. Whatever the sources of such a large performance boost, though, these results are evidence of a 'Green tide' (Curtice, 1989) in the last three European elections. ...
Article
Research on elections to the European Parliament (EP) has consistently found that European elections are distinguished by a lack of European content. Such elections, in spite of the growing powers exercised by the EP, remain ‘second-order’. Clearly, however, EU-related issues have affected the performance of some political parties in EP elections, particularly in countries such as Sweden and Denmark. In our empirical analysis of the three most recent EP elections, we explain party choice as a function of both European and non-EU-related factors. Through the use of standard regression models, we find that the parties that have not ‘got their act together’ on European issues—whose internal fractionalization leads to ambiguities about their stance on EU integration—systematically perform worse. We also corroborate some of the implications of the ‘second-order’ model and resolve some empirical disputes.
... These three characteristics of second-order elections have been tested in a number of empirical studies, which focus on the applicability of the model itself and the sources of small party gains and government party losses. These analyses consistently demonstrate that turnout in second-order elections is lower than in first-order elections (Reif, 1984Reif, , 1985 Curtice, 1989; Niedermayer, 1990), although large variations exist across countries and from one election to the next (Van der). They have also found party size to constitute an important predictor of vote choice in second-order elections (Curtice, 1989; Marsh, 1998; Miller, 1988; Anderson and Ward, 1996; Norris and Reif, 1997), and the impact of government status has been both confirmed (Reif and Schmitt, 1980; Reif, 1984 Reif, , 1985 Marsh and Franklin, 1996; Marsh, 1998) and dismissed (Curtice, 1989; Oppenhuis et al., 1996). ...
... These analyses consistently demonstrate that turnout in second-order elections is lower than in first-order elections (Reif, 1984Reif, , 1985 Curtice, 1989; Niedermayer, 1990), although large variations exist across countries and from one election to the next (Van der). They have also found party size to constitute an important predictor of vote choice in second-order elections (Curtice, 1989; Marsh, 1998; Miller, 1988; Anderson and Ward, 1996; Norris and Reif, 1997), and the impact of government status has been both confirmed (Reif and Schmitt, 1980; Reif, 1984 Reif, , 1985 Marsh and Franklin, 1996; Marsh, 1998) and dismissed (Curtice, 1989; Oppenhuis et al., 1996). One recurrent theme has been the temporal location of the second-order election in the first-order election cycle and its impact on the election outcome. ...
... These analyses consistently demonstrate that turnout in second-order elections is lower than in first-order elections (Reif, 1984Reif, , 1985 Curtice, 1989; Niedermayer, 1990), although large variations exist across countries and from one election to the next (Van der). They have also found party size to constitute an important predictor of vote choice in second-order elections (Curtice, 1989; Marsh, 1998; Miller, 1988; Anderson and Ward, 1996; Norris and Reif, 1997), and the impact of government status has been both confirmed (Reif and Schmitt, 1980; Reif, 1984 Reif, , 1985 Marsh and Franklin, 1996; Marsh, 1998) and dismissed (Curtice, 1989; Oppenhuis et al., 1996). One recurrent theme has been the temporal location of the second-order election in the first-order election cycle and its impact on the election outcome. ...
Article
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On 1 May 2004, the European Union (EU) welcomed its new member states from Central and Eastern Europe. This paper considers to what extent one of the most widely tested and supported theories of voting behavior in Western Europe, the second-order election model, applies in the enlarged EU. We test the model using election data from the new member states and find that voters do not cast protest votes against their incumbent national governments in second-order elec tions, that is, elections where voters believe little to be at stake. This finding contradicts one of the model's basic propositions and runs counter to the empirical reality in the old member states, with potentially significant implications for inter and intra-institutional politics in the EU.
... Although Reif and Schmitt's propositions have been frequently tested with both aggregate-(e.g., Curtice 1989;Hix and Marsh 2007;Marsh 1998) and individual-level data , they have also been subject to criticism. A first line of criticism focuses on whether this process of electoral change across arenas is driven by sincere voting (Reif and Schmitt 1980), or whether we should refer to this type of voting change as "instrumental", aiming either at sending a signal to national parties (Oppenhuis et al. 1996) or at balancing representation between national and supranational elections (Carrubba and Timpone 2005), similar to subnational and federal elections in the US and Canada (Erikson 1988;Erikson and Filippov 2001). ...
... Other authors have argued that vote choice in European elections cannot be solely attributed to domestic politics, since it also reflects preferences over the EU policy agenda ). For example, the "Green tide" across Europe in the 1989 elections has been explained by voters' demand for having environmental issues tackled at the European level (Curtice 1989). The Eurosceptic vote can also be linked to this idea. ...
Article
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Why have European large parties lost electoral ground in recent decades? Whereas most explanations draw on theories of dealignment, this article advances a novel, institutional, argument by focusing on the introduction of direct elections to the European Parliament (EP) in 1979. Archetypes of second-order elections, EP elections are characterized by lower vote shares for (a) large and (b) incumbent parties. Bridging the second-order elections theory with theories of political socialization, we posit that voting patterns in EP elections spill over onto national elections, especially among voters not yet socialized into patterns of habitual voting. In so doing, they increase the national vote shares of small parties. This proposition is examined using an instrumental variables approach. We also derive a set of testable propositions to shed light on the underlying mechanisms of this pattern. Our findings show that EP elections decrease support for big parties at the national arena by inculcating voting habits.
... Although Green parties have been rather successful in securing seats in the EP since 1984, the literature on the Greens at the supranational level remains rather sparse. There has been some research on the electoral fortunes of the Greens at the EU level (Bowler and Farrell 1992; Carter 1994 Carter , 2005 Curtice 1989) and on the development of the European party federations (Delwit et al. 2001; Hix 1996). Dietz (2000) compared the European Greens to other transnational party federations. ...
... It became the fifth largest of the (then) eleven parliamentary groups. It gathered MEPs from seven countries - Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain -and was mainly dominated by the French and German delegations (respectively 9 and 8 members) (Corbett et al 2011; Curtice 1989). According to Bowler and Farrell (1992: 134), the group lacked a collective dimension as there were a lot of national differences and individual members seemed 'unwilling or unable to adequately pool their strengths and resources as a group'. ...
... Problems caused during the 1980s by irresponsible economic growth become apparent through environmental accidents and 9 scandals. The results of the European elections at the end of the decade show that environmental issues had reached the mainstream of society and policy (Curtice, 1989). The shift from near social towards far social and environmental continued. ...
... Cavanagh and Linn, 2006; Knight and Pretty, 1997)The public reaction to these accidents can be seen during the European elections at the end of that decade. For example, the Green Party in the United Kingdom reached 15 percent in European elections, forcing Margaret Thatcher to add environmental issues to her profile (Curtice, 1989;). . Social and environmental issues affected not only policy but also business activities and investment. ...
Article
This chapter discusses social, environmental and trust issues relating to business and finance in a historical context. Social issues relating to the concerned societal groups emerged since the mid of the 20th century and have had increasing impact on business ever since. Environmental issues and concerns about social conditions of third parties (e.g. Vietnam war) followed. Recently, societal groups have also voiced anxieties about the trustworthiness of certain businesses, especially large financial institutions. These societal trends can be business relevant in a positive and negative way. Managing these stakeholder concerns can, for instance, build trust and consumer loyalty but it also costs corporate resources. The chapter closes with an outlook on social, environmental and trust issues in the 21st century. Due to a consistently increasing complexity of business and finance and a similarly consistently increasing speed of information exchange among concerned stakeholders (e.g. via social media), it is believed that especially trust based businesses such as financial institutions will be increasingly faced with the challenges and opportunities resulting from societal concerns about social, environmental and trust issues.
... After all, there had been an alleged 'green tide' in the 1989 European Parliament elections and a sudden rise of anti- European parties in the 1994 elections (e.g. Curtice, 1989; Lodge, 1996; Taggart, 1998). In the standard models of European Parliament elections, which focus on average governing party and party-size effects and pool results from all European Parliament elections, have pan-European swings in European Parliament elections been ignored? ...
... Having said that, some pan-European swings between party families do seem to have occurred. For example, as Curtice (1989) identified, the 1989 election marked the biggest aggregate gains for green parties, relative to their previous national general election performances, even Table A3 in the Appendix. In these box plots (Tukey 1977), the black dots in the middle of each box are the median effects, the right and left of the boxes are the 25th and 75th percentiles of the distributions, respectively, the ends of the 'whiskers' mark plus/minus 1.5 median (or if these are smaller, the extreme cases) and the outliers beyond these points are indicated with dots. ...
Article
After seven waves of European Parliament elections and European Union enlargement to 27 states, the time is ripe to analyse the temporal robustness of the second-order model. We pool all the elections in a single evaluation and also look at election-by-election variations. We analyse changes in party performance over time in all EU states as well as in the ‘original 10’, to see whether any cross-time changes are driven by the changing composition of the EU. We also look for pan-European trends in each election, as a way identifying ‘European effects’ distinct from second-order effects. There are few consistent winners and losers, although socialist parties performed worse in the last three elections than their size and government status would predict.
... As a result, the United Nations agreed to the formation of the IPCC later that year. By 1989, civil society concern about environmental issues was growing with significant votes for green parties in EU elections in the UK and other countries (Curtice, 1989). The IPCC produced its first report in 1990, leading to international agreement to the UNFCCC in 1992. ...
Article
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In April 1989, the UK Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, convened a full cabinet meeting on climate change addressed by leading scientists. The presentation on mitigation of carbon dioxide emissions was made by the Head of the Energy Technology Support Unit (ETSU), Ken Currie, and identified the key potential options for mitigation by 2020. In this paper, we compare the mitigation potential identified for each proposed option with the 2019 outturn. The largest mitigation options identified were improved end use energy efficiency across the economy and the generation and use of low carbon electricity. Our analysis finds that these have been the key options adopted. Reductions in primary energy use, resulting from improvements in energy efficiency were concentrated in the period 2005–2012 which in 1989 were widely considered to be ambitious. Decarbonisation of electricity has been achieved by the displacement of coal, initially by gas and more recently by renewable electricity. Renewable electricity has exceeded 1989 expectations in the last 5 years and is now the biggest source of CO 2 reductions from electricity generation. The contribution envisaged by nuclear electricity has not occurred, largely due its failure to compete in liberalised generation markets. In all cases, the policy environment has been important. We draw lessons for mitigation options to achieve the goal of net zero emissions in the next 30 years. The contribution of demand side and other modular options will remain crucial, as mass-produced technologies tend to improve more quickly than those requiring large construction projects. Environmental, social and political factors will be important, so analysis should not be a purely techno-economic assessment.
... Similarly, more permissive electoral rules at European Parliament elections lower the cost of electoral coordination, enabling smaller parties to overcome some perceived problems of viability (Prosser 2016b). European Parliament elections have been described as serving as 'midwives' to the birth of new parties in Europe, which subsequently start to play a significant role in first-order elections (Curtice 1989;Ysmal and Cayrol 1996). Examples of this include the French Front National who caused a major surprise when they won 11 per cent of the vote at the 1984 European Parliament election and then went on to win 9.6 per cent of the vote and their first seats in the National Assembly in 1986 (Ysmal and Cayrol 1996); and the German Greens (Muller-Rommel 1993) who gained representation in the European Parliament of 1983 (with 5.6 per cent of the vote) and on that basis, one year later, were able to enter the German federal parliament with 8.2 per cent of the vote. ...
Chapter
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The Global Financial Crisis, which began in 2007–8, was the most significant financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and acted as a large shock to British politics. The economic vote is usually thought about as a short-term mechanism: a reward or punishment for the incumbent depending on recent economic conditions. In this chapter we examine how this shock played a role in the outcome of the 2015 General Election, seven years after the crisis began. The Global Financial Crisis continued to affect voting behaviour in 2015 for two reasons: first, it did long-lasting damage to perceptions of Labour’s economic competence, and second, it created a political opportunity for the Conservatives to blame the previous Labour government for the aftermath of the financial crisis.
... Similarly, more permissive electoral rules at European Parliament elections lower the cost of electoral coordination, enabling smaller parties to overcome some perceived problems of viability (Prosser 2016b). European Parliament elections have been described as serving as 'midwives' to the birth of new parties in Europe, which subsequently start to play a significant role in first-order elections (Curtice 1989;Ysmal and Cayrol 1996). Examples of this include the French Front National who caused a major surprise when they won 11 per cent of the vote at the 1984 European Parliament election and then went on to win 9.6 per cent of the vote and their first seats in the National Assembly in 1986 (Ysmal and Cayrol 1996); and the German Greens (Muller-Rommel 1993) who gained representation in the European Parliament of 1983 (with 5.6 per cent of the vote) and on that basis, one year later, were able to enter the German federal parliament with 8.2 per cent of the vote. ...
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This book offers a novel perspective on British elections, focusing on the importance of increasing electoral volatility in British elections, and the role of electoral shocks in the context of increasing volatility. It demonstrates how shocks have contributed to the level of electoral volatility, and also which parties have benefited from the ensuing volatility. It follows in the tradition of British Election Study books, providing a comprehensive account of specific election outcomes—the General Elections of 2015 and 2017—and a more general approach to understanding electoral change.We examine five electoral shocks that affected the elections of 2015 and 2017: the rise in EU immigration after 2004, particularly from Eastern Europe; the Global Financial Crisis prior to 2010; the coalition government of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats between 2010 and 2015; the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014; and the European Union Referendum in 2016.Our focus on electoral shocks offers an overarching explanation for the volatility in British elections, alongside the long-term trends that have led us to this point. It offers a way to understand the rise and fall of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), Labour’s disappointing 2015 performance and its later unexpected gains, the collapse in support for the Liberal Democrats, the dramatic gains of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in 2015, and the continuing period of tumultuous politics that has followed the EU Referendum and the General Election of 2017. It provides a new way of understanding electoral choice in Britain, and beyond, and a better understanding of the outcomes of recent elections.
... 3 The three central assumptions have been repeatedly tested and largely confirmed over the past three decades, in particular concerning turnout patterns (e.g. Curtice, 1989;Niedermayer, 1990;Reif, 1984). 4 In a 2 The other dimensions are 'specific arena', 'institutionalprocedural', 'campaign' and 'main-arena political change' (Reif & Schmitt, 1980, pp. ...
Article
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The second-order paradigm is the dominant framework for research on electoral behavior in European Parliament (EP) elections. In this study, we assess to what degree voting patterns in the 2014 EP election were characterized by second-orderness. While most studies of second-order voting behavior rely on macro-level accounts or suffer from potentially conflated vote measures, this study relies on panel data from the 2013 national and the 2014 EP election in Austria. We study change patterns in electoral behavior and, more importantly, assess the motives behind differences in vote choices between first- and second-order elections. Overall, the findings point towards a persisting relevance of the second-order framework for explaining voting in the 2014 EP election.
... Beyond turnout, scholars have strived to explain vote choice by proper characteristics of European politics. Curtice (1989) and Carrubba and Timpone (2005) predict an advantage of green parties in EP elections because some voters would prefer coordination of environmental policy at the European level. Similarly, anti-integration stances may attract votes in EP elections as compared to national ones (Van Egmond, 2007). ...
Article
Elections to the European Parliament (EP) are only nominally about Europe. Domestic concerns, and not the future of the integration process, dominate the public agenda even in these EU-wide contests. This is at least the conclusion one could draw from 30 years of research on ‘second-order elections’. In recent years, however, scholars have begun to contest the second-order paradigm ; voting behavior in EP elections seems to reflect a mixture of domestic and ‘European’ concerns. Here I try to show that such a compromise solution misses the very point behind the second-order argument. Even if ‘Europe’ often matters for voting behavior, the degree of this influence depends on the dynamics of domestic party competition. I provide evidence that approaching elections to national parliaments remove preferences on integration from the vote function. National governments as the decisive actors in the European Council are still elected in European vacuo. By contrast, attention to the integration process appears to be highest in midterm elections to the EP that is not entitled to intervene in matters of institutional design. Reasons for this apparent paradox are discussed.
... Instead, second-order elections (SOE) are believed to strongly tie MEPs to their national parties. Citizens are less participatory because they believe that little is at stake in European elections (Curtice 1989;Niedermayer 1990). To increase turnout, parties place national issues at the center of their campaigns (Blumler and Fox 1982), which reduces incumbent MEPs" opportunities to claim credit for EU-level achievements. ...
Article
This paper introduces a model of the electoral connection in the European Parliament. Emphasizing the problem of common agency - wherein agents are beholden to multiple principals who cannot coordinate - it assumes that national parties, European party groups, and voters are "latent principals" that differentially constrain members of the European Parliament (MEPs). The model proposes that the degree to which each of these principals constrain MEPs depends upon signals that MEPs receive from the national political arena about their electoral vulnerability. Re-election seeking MEPs will in turn cultivate closer connections with the principal whose support is most important for reducing electoral vulnerability. Drawing on the second-order election model, signals about MEP vulnerability are measured as a national party"s success in the most recent national election, given the party"s average size, governing status, and time remaining until the European election. The model predicts three broad outcomes. First, MEPs from large or governing parties will generally be more vulnerable as their party label suffers in European elections. Expecting losses, they should cultivate closer connections to their constituents by emphasizing personal record rather than party affiliation. Second, MEPs from small or opposition parties will generally be less vulnerable as their party label is more successful in European elections. Expecting gains, these MEPs will seek to appeal to their party leaders in order to secure the safest (often only the top) place on the electoral list. Finally, the model predicts that systemic-level attributes such as voters" right to re-order the ballot should contribute to variation in the first two outcomes. The model"s propositions are tested empirically with qualitative and quantitative evidence from 30 interviews with MEPs in 2008 and an original dataset of MEPs" non-roll-call position taking in plenary sessions during the 6th European Parliament term.
... The European Elections of 1989 provide us with an unprecedented opportunity to study the basis of green support across Europe. Throughout much of the (then) 2 European Community green parties made gains (Curtice 1989;Mackie 1990). The most surprising result was recorded in Britain where the previously largely unknown Green Party polled a staggering 14.9 per cent of the vote, the best ever showing of any green party in nationwide elections anywhere in the world. ...
Article
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Green parties have been seen by some scholars as expressing a new cleavage that should give them the same sort of permanence as was once enjoyed by traditional cleavage-based parties, but other scholars suggest that support for Green parties will prove more ephemeral if Green issues are eventually taken up by older parties. In this article, we study the prospects for Green party durability from several perspectives using data from the 1989 European Election Study. We conclude that while Green parties are unlikely to demonstrate extreme volatility, neither do they have any guarantee of long-term support. In reaching this conclusion, we assess postmaterialist and other theoretical perspectives on Green voting, none of which account satisfactorily for observed phenomena. The ubiquitous importance of environmental concern, however, suggests the possibility of an ecological cleavage underlying the support for Green parties.
... Consequently, European Parliament elections have been described as second-order national elections (cf. Reif and Schmitt, 1980;Reif, 1984Reif, , 1985aCurtice, 1989). As such, they appeared to be similar to mid-term elections in the US; Landtagswahlen in Germany; by-elections in Britain; and so on. 1 Specific to this type of second-order national elections is that their immediate, arena-specific political significance is inferior compared to their indirect meaning to the main political arena, the national polity. ...
... For the most part, Green parties are closer to the median voter's preferences on environment. As early as the 1989 elections, it was suggested that a-Green tide‖ may be washing over Europe, as many citizens demanded that environmental issues be addressed at the supranational level (Curtice 1989). If people vote based on fundamentally different issues-such as environmental governance-at the European level, it would not be surprising to see Green parties benefit from this in EP elections. ...
... Their study, based on Eurobarometer data, confirmed most of the second-order premises but also indicated that 'Europe matters': voters actively express different preferences at the EU level (Carruba and Timpone, 2005: 279). For example, they demonstrated that voting 'green' at the European level is more than just a small party vote or an anti-government vote (see also Curtice, 1989). Rohrschneider and Clark (2008) examined the extent to which voters take the evaluation of parties at both the national and the EU level into account. ...
Article
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This study explains why people voted differently in the 2009 regional and European elections in Belgium. By comparing loyal voters and voters who split their ticket, the article shows that a part of the electorate is driven by Euro-specific motivations. The proportion of people who truly vote ‘European’ depends on the political context, and more precisely on what parties offer the voters in terms of candidates and issues. However, the European dimension is not the only mechanism that underlies voters’ electoral choices at the European level. In particular, uncertain voters, who lack a clear preference for one party at the national level, are likely to split their ticket between the regional and European elections.
... For example, falling turnout seems to go hand-in-hand with declining support for European integration. There appeared to be a " green tide " across Europe in the 1989 elections, as voters demanded that environmental issues should be tackled at the European level (Curtice 1989 ). Anti- European movements have emerged suddenly in European elections in Denmark, France, the United Kingdom, and Sweden. ...
Article
After six sets of European Parliament elections, do voters primarily use these elections to punish their national governments or to express their views on European issues? We answer this question by looking at all European elections (1979–2004) in all 25 EU states. We find that almost 40% of the volatility in party vote-shares in European elections compared to national elections is explained by the transfer of votes from large and governing parties to small and opposition parties. Nevertheless, anti-EU parties and green parties on average do better in European elections than in national elections. But these “European effects” are minor, and the position a party takes on Europe is largely irrelevant to its performance. Hence, despite the growing powers of the European Parliament, neither positions on matters regarding European integration, nor on matters regarding “normal” left-right policy, have much of an effect on electoral outcomes.
... Most of these propositions received at least preliminary validation from studies of individual European elections, and, in the case of turnout, all European elections up to and including those of 1989 (Reif, 1984(Reif, , 1985Niedermayer, 1990;Curtice, 1989 Most of the research on turnout has focussed on individuals and has arrived at similar conclusions. In particular it has been emphasized that positive views on Europe (at the individual level) do not merely predict turnout in European elections, but also at national elections (eg. ...
Article
With four sets of European parliamentary elections now behind us, it is appropriate to review the prevailing interpretation of such elections as second-order national elections, a view first put forward by Reif and Schmitt in 1980. While the second-order model has yielded important insights into the way European elections can be understood as manifesting national political processes, more recent research has fruitfully turned the model on its head, and focused on what European elections can tell us about national elections and the nature of the voting act. Indeed, the use of individual-level survey data to study elections to the European Parliament has for the first time truly shown us the importance of institutional and political context in conditioning turnout and party choice. Findings of recent research suggest that the second-order features of European elections should be thought of as contextual variables that can affect other elections as well.
... The second pattern relates to the effect of second-order elections on political parties and their electoral performance. Large parties, both in government and opposition, tend to lose votes in EP elections relative to their performance in national elections, with governing parties losing more than opposition parties, while small parties tend to gain votes (Bellucci 2010; Curtice 1989; Ferrara and Weishaupt 2004; Kousser 2004; Marsh 1996 Marsh , 1998 Marsh , 2003 Marsh , 2007 Marsh and Franklin 1996; Reif 1985; van der Eijk, Franklin, and Oppenhuis 1996b). Pacek and Radcliff (2003) focus on the party performance in the " low turnout " environment of European elections over time. ...
Article
The decision to establish direct elections to the European Parliament was intended by many to establish a direct link between the individual citizen and decision making at the European level. Elections were meant to help to establish a common identity among the peoples of Europe, to legitimise policy through the normal electoral processes and provide a public space within which Europeans could exert a more direct control over their collective future. Critics disagreed, arguing that direct elections to the European Parliament would further undermine the sovereignty of member states, and may not deliver on the promise that so many were making on behalf of that process. In particular, some wondered whether elections alone could mobilise European publics to take a much greater interest in European matters, with the possibility of European elections being contested simply on national matters. Evaluating these divergent views, the subject of this article is to review the literature on direct elections to the European Parliament in the context of the role these elections play in governance of the European Union. The seminal work by Reif and Schmitt serves as the starting point of our review. These authors were the first to discuss elections to the European Parliament as second-order national elections. Results of second-order elections are influenced not only by second-order factors, but also by the situation in the first-order arena at the time of the second-order election. In the 30 years and six more sets of European Parliament elections since the publication of their work, the concept has become the dominant one in any academic discussion of European elections. In this article we review that work in order to assess the continuing value of the second-order national election concept today, and to consider some of the more fruitful areas for research which might build on the advance made by Reif and Schmitt. While the concept has proven useful in studies of a range of elections beyond just those for the European Parliament, including those for regional and local assemblies as well as referendums, this review will concentrate solely on EP elections. Concluding that Reif and Schmitt’s characterisation remains broadly valid today, the article allows that while this does not mean there is necessarily a democratic deficit within the EU, there may be changes that could be made to encourage a more effective electoral process. Full online version available at http://www.livingreviews.org/lreg-2010-4
... The fourth caveat concerns electoral participation and the occasional use of European elections in protest voting. In this instance, the 1989 European elections were characterised by a large number of people voting for the Green Party, apparently as a protest vote against the main parties (Curtice, 1989). Certainly, evidence from Eurobarometer 32 (1989) conducted after the European election does not suggest that a new wave of previous nonvoters was responsible for the increase in support for the Green Party. ...
Article
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Electoral turnout is an important measure of the health of a liberal democracy. Although research identifies factors that affect electoral participation, we still know little about how electors in a specific location respond to opportunities to vote for different kinds of local, national, and supranational institutions. This paper addresses this issue by analysing the relative rates of turnout at local, parliamentary, and European elections within three time periods for the London Borough of Brent. It uses turnout data for individual polling districts to investigate whether relative differences in turnout are sustained across time, whether polling districts perform consistently or not for different types of elections and whether variations in turnout are related to marginality. The results indicate that turnout at different types of elections is not stable even within tightly constrained time periods and that there are statistically significant differences in the relative rates of participation between polling districts. Geographically, the differences in relative rates of turnout appear to be spatially clustered, particularly with respect to local elections and this may reflect an increase in the concentration of party campaigning in marginal wards.
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The 2019 European Parliament (EP) elections produced remarkable gains for Green parties throughout the European Union (EU). We analyse in how far different national electoral contexts can explain the electoral success of Green parties in EU member states. On the theoretical side, we argue that an increased salience of EU environmental politics has led to ‘green issue voting’. However, the relevance of environmental issue preferences depends on the electoral context in which Green parties compete for votes. Specifically, we expect ‘green issue voting’ to be most relevant for the smaller Green parties who own the environmental issue. On the empirical side, we test our argument by combining survey data collected by the European Election Study with information on party positions provided by the Comparative Manifestos Project. Our findings strongly suggest that the relevance of ‘green issue voting’ in the 2019 EP elections was conditionally dependent on the national electoral context.
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The severe economic crisis that unfolded in Western economies in 2008 could be expected to have had political consequences as well as economic ones. As European economies slipped into recession in the latter part of 2008, the focus of attention in both European Union and national politics turned increasingly to economic matters. The immediate cause of the recession was widely attributed to external shocks, particularly the financial crisis in the United States, which was precipitated by events such as the collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank, the bailout of the insurance conglomerate AIG, and the ripple effects throughout the economy of those events. For most European economies, the low point was reached in the second quarter of 2009, with the average net growth in gross domestic product (GDP) for the EU27 at that time registering −4.2 per cent (Table 4.1). Only Poland escaped recession conditions, showing weak growth at an annualized rate of +1.7 per cent in this period. By the first quarter of 2010, all European countries had begun at least a modest recovery from the recession. However, this recovery began to stall as a second economic crisis took shape in Europe, involving sovereign debt markets in Greece, Spain, Ireland, and some other countries, generating pressures on European banks and other institutions and even raising anxieties about the potential survival of the Euro.
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‘Can the European Union Finally Become a Democracy?’, asked political theorist M. Th. Greven in a recent essay on democratic norms, institutions and practices in the European Union (EU).1 His answer was pessimistic. Like other observers who have attempted to address the problem of the ‘democratic deficit’ in Europe, Greven took note of the inherent democratic deficiencies which have become embedded in EU institutions.2 These included the lack of a genuinely European political space or demos, constitutional deficiencies and legal practices, as well as the structure, lack of meaningful legislative powers, and electoral accountability of the European Parliament. While some analysts have seen the Parliament and the direct election of its members as part of the solution to the democratic deficit, Greven views it as part of the problem. ‘There are still no true European parties’, he noted, ‘merely intraparliamentary coalitions and strategic alliances’. And, ‘European elections’, he argued, ‘are more precisely “national by-elections”, because electoral campaigns in the various member states almost invariably focus on national issues and a national agenda’.3
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Voting turnout in European Union (EU) elections has consistently declined since the first vote in 1979 (see Figure 5.1); the slide has, in many instances, been even more marked than in member states’ parliamentary votes. The first direct election of the European Parliament (EP) in 1979 registered 65.9 per cent as the mean turnout for the nine countries participating; by 2004 the mean for the 25 member states was only 47.8 per cent.1 With few exceptions, turnout in elections for the EP has also been consistently lower than national turnout levels. In some cases the difference is dramatic.
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This chapter is one of the first to analyze how local culture especially voluntary associations and public arts activities can mobilize citizens and increase voter turnout. This general hypothesis is contextualized by contrasting types of elections (French presidential vs. European Union) and types of art (contemporary, patrimonial, folkloric). We test these contextualized hypotheses by analyzing demographic, cultural, and political data from 263 French communes using linear regression methods. Civic associations and some arts activities seem to increase turnout in European but not presidential elections. Further, arts types vary in their association with voting for different parties. These findings suggest the importance of civic and arts activities for future analyses of voting turnout and party voting.
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Niche parties in European countries have struggled to win seats in national legislatures. Accounts of niche party development describe how attempts to win these seats often begin with second-order election campaigns for the European Parliament (EP) or a regional assembly. Strong second-order campaigns can signal that a party is locally competitive, which will help niche parties by reducing defections due to strategic voting in later first-order elections. In this paper, I argue that according to such accounts, improvements in second-order election results should be correlated with subsequent improvements in first-order election results in any given constituency. I also argue that the magnitude of this correlation can be compared across different types of second-order elections, to gauge how credible voters perceive these second-order signals of local viability to be. I find that only regional assembly election results, not EP election results, are consistently and statistically significantly correlated with national election results. This suggests that niche parties can only build their support through bottom-up rather than top-down means, and that EP election results cannot be used to predict how niche parties will perform at national elections.
Thesis
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The aim of this dissertation is to test whether the second-order election is applicable to the European Parliament (EP) election in the post-communist European Union (EU) member states. Since the second-order election model has been developed for the analysis of voting behaviour, I test model’s voting behaviour propositions on the sample of ten post-communist countries that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007 respectively. In addition, I argue in the dissertation that focusing on citizens’ voting behaviour misses the crucial point that citizens (voters) are not the only main actor in the electoral process. I propose that the second-order election focus also on the behaviour of political parties and media. Subsequently, I derive theoretically informed proposition related to party and media behaviour and test them on the sample of the post-communist countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The results indicate that the 2004 and 2009 EP election in the EU-10 countries can be understood, for the most part, in terms of the second-order election model on the side of voters, political parties as well as media.
Article
Assuming that the electoral success of niche parties in EP elections is largely due to the vote switching in EP elections, this study seeks to explore the motivations leading mainstream party supporters to switch to niche parties in EP elections (niche switching voters). From the results of analyses, some important findings could be drawn. First, for niche switching voters, the ‘protest voting’ motivation is very important motive. In particular, they are strongly driven by their profound distrust in mainstream politics in switching to niche parties. Second, unlike the existing literature, European considerations matter in their voting behavior. Third, vote choice based on the niche issues also has important effect on their voting behavior. This demonstrates clearly that, niche switching voters are different from other switching voters.
Article
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European elections used to be considered as national second-order elections where parties and voters tended to position themselves on national rather than European issues. These last years, some researchers have claimed this is not true anymore. This article tests the hypothesis of a “European” electoral choice, directly influenced by citizens’ attitudes towards European integration, using data collected at the time of the 2014 European elections in five countries : Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. More specifically, it aims to highlight the plural logic at work operating between attitudes and voting behavior by focusing on two particular dimensions of the vote in 2014 : what we call a true European abstention, expressing discontent with the EU and the divergent vote understood as the vote for a different party than the one for which the respondent has declared a particular partisanship.
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Green parties achieved a major breakthrough in the 1989 European elections. Who voted green in these elections? This first comprehensive comparative analysis of the green voter in Europe reveals, that, as expected, green voting is more common among the young, well‐educated, and middle class, and green voters also tend to be left‐wing, post‐materialist and concerned about the environment and arms limitation. But these stereotypical attributes of greenness closely apply to the German and Dutch Greens only: green voters in other countries comply far less, if at all, with this socio‐demographic profile. The one pervasive predictor is environmental concern, which is dominant in Britain, France, Belgium and Ireland. It is rather less important in Germany and the Netherlands where post‐materialism and a left‐wing orientation are more prevalent instead. The basis of green voting is thus rather less narrow than previously thought. The sharper delineation of support for the German Greens has contributed to a relatively stable green vote in the past, but the potential for attracting other sectors of the electorate are clearly very limited. Green parties in most other countries appear to be able to attract votes from a wider spectrum of the population but the commitment of these voters is likely to be far more volatile.
Article
The problem with political representation within the European Union lies less with the much discussed ‘democratic deficit’ than with the lack of a party system that offers a meaningful choice to the voters and reflects this choice in the European Parliament. The current transnational political groups in the European Parliament are unstable and heterogeneous alliances of national parties. These national parties fight European elections on national issues. The potential alternatives to the further institutionalisation of the transnational party system include a truly European party system or a split‐level party system. These alternatives would benefit from the introduction of a uniform electoral system other than the currently most widely used PR with nation‐wide districts. Paradoxically, it would be advantageous for the established national parties to withdraw from the European arena, which would insulate them from the growing risk of spillover from the vagaries of Euro‐elections.
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This article develops previous theoretical and empirical connections made between the discourses of nationalism and environmentalism. It commences with a literature review of previous work that has sought to draw attention to the potential compatibility, or otherwise, between the political forces of environmentalism and nationalism. Drawing on qualitative and original primary evidence, the rise and decline of the Plaid Cymru/Green Party alliance of 1991–95 is charted—an episode that says much about the uneasy relationship between nationalism and environmentalism. The election of Cynog Dafis as MP for Ceredigion and Pembroke North was a historic event both for Welsh nationalism and the Green Party. However, the subsequent, acrimonious break-up of the coalition suggests that relationships between environmentalism and nationalism shall remain a situationally contingent phenomenon.
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Reif and Schmitt argued that elections to the European Parliament should be understood as second-order national elections, and advanced several predictions about the results of such elections. Those concerning the impact of government status, party size, party character and the national election cycle on electoral performance are examined here using data on four sets of European Parliament elections. In addition, the consequences of European Parliament elections for the next national election are explored. The analysis demonstrates the validity of most of Reif and Schmitt's original propositions, and further refines their analysis of the relationship between European and subsequent national elections. However, all propositions hold much more effectively in countries where alternation in government is the norm, suggesting that the distinction between first-order and second-order elections may not be so clear cut as Reif and Schmitt imagined.
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The spectacular success of the British Greens in winning 15% of the vote in the 1989 elections for the European parliament contrasts starkly with their previous failures. The turnaround in their fortunes is attributable in part to increasing awareness of environmental issues, both domestic and global, but especially to changes in the state of party competition: the collapse of the Liberal and Social Democratic Alliance, the unpopularity and negative campaign of the Conservative party, and the Labour party's abandonment of unilateral nuclear disarmament, all exacerbated by low turnout in an election for a parliament few Britons knew or cared much about. It is likely, however, that in a general election more usual conditions of political competition will obtain and that, because of the disciplines of the British electroal system, the Greens' success of 1989 will not be repeated in national elections.
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Various conceptions of ‘Environmentalism’ and ‘New Politics’ are surveyed and their logical inconsistencies are identified. It is argued that only a conception of the crisis of industrial society, not the least evident in Eastern Europe, enables a consistent understanding of ‘new politics’. From this conception, stressing the limits of man's mastery over nature on the one hand and the limits of the expansion of formal rationality on the other, the ambivalences in ‘New Politics’ between ‘pre-industrial’ and ‘post-industrial’ solutions are identified. The article sketches how the ‘post-industrial’ position can be developed. Neoliberalism and ‘green’ politics are identified not only as adversaries but rather as competing responses to the crisis of industrialism and the compatibility of ‘green’ and social democratic politics is analysed.
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This article focuses on competition for votes between parties, as it existed in Western Europe in the period of the direct election to the European Parliament in 1989. Following earlier research by Van der Eijk and Niemöller, an instrument is introduced to measure the probability of party choice of EC citizens which establishes the likelihood of respondents to vote for any of the nationally relevant options/parties. A number of substantive conclusions about political parties'competitive performance result from this research. First, a single mechanism seems to structure electoral competition in all EC member-countries. Second, the competitive performance of political parties is not affected by their governmental status, their ideological position, and the degree of politicisation of the electoral environment. And third, parties'competitive performance is strongly affected by the degree of uniqueness of their electoral potential, their mobilising capacities, their ideological extremity and their sheer size.
Article
In Britain, both local elections and European elections can be regarded as second–order. However, voters believe that even less is at stake in European elections than in local elections, and their behaviour is congruent with this: voters are more likely to turn out in local elections, they are more likely to ‘split their ticket’ they are more likely to report that they vote on issues specific to the second–order arena. Logistic regression of party choices in the local, European and national contexts confirms this. National considerations played less part in the local election and there was some evidence that voters were influenced by the record of the locally–incumbent party. It appears that voting in the European elections has more of an expressive character, and is less instrumental than that in either local or national elections.
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As the European Union (EU) has evolved, the study agenda has shifted from ‘European integration’ to ‘EU politics’. Missing from this new agenda, however, is an understanding of the ‘cognitive constraints’ on actors and how actors respond, i.e. the shape of the EU ‘political space’ and the location of social groups and competition between actors within this space. The article develops a theoretical framework for understanding the shape of the EU political space (the interaction between an Integration–Independence and Left–Right dimension and the location of class and sectoral groups within this map), and tests this framework on the policy positions of the Socialist, Christian Democrat and Liberal party leaders between 1976 and 1994 (using the techniques of the ECPR Party Manifestos Group Project). The research finds that the two dimensions were salient across the whole period, explains why the party families converged on pro–European positions by the 1990s and discovers the emergence of a triangular ‘core’ of EU politics.
Article
The electoral success of the Green Party in 1989 suggested substantial support for pro-environment policies within the British population. Ecological analysis of that electoral performance suggests that Green support was greatest among the affluent middle class in the south of England. Analysis of 1987 electoral survey data, however, indicates not one but three separate dimensions to environmental concern within the country, with clear implications for mobilisation of the pro-Green electorate.
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How were the results of the European Elections related to national political patterns? This article adopts a cross-national comparative perspective. It concludes that government parties, irrespective of being on the right or on the left of the political spectrum, and irrespective of representing the more ‘pro-European’ or the more ‘anti-European’ forces of their country, lost the European election of 1984. European elections have proved to be additional second-order elections (like local or provincial elections), important for the ripples they create on the national political scene. The systematic relationship between voting in firstorder and second-order elections is explored in detail. On the whole, it appears that the 1984 European elections have to be seen largely as tests of opinion on domestic politics.
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Nomination: Second-order elections revisited by Pippa Norris, p.109 Reflections: European elections as member state second-order elections revisited by Karlheinz Reif, p.115
The Electoral Universe of Small Parties in Postwar Western Europe
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