Research Centre for the Study of Parties and Democracy

Voters Under Pressure: Group-Based Cross-Pressure and Electoral Volatility

Thursday 23rd March 2023 (16:00-17:30)
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REPRESENT is delighted to welcome guest speaker Ruth Dassonneville, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Université de Montréal.

Ruth Dassonneville visits virtually to present her new book, which examines changes in voters' electoral choices over time and investigates how these changes are linked to a growth in electoral volatility. The core argument, supported by extensive empirical data, is that group-based cross-pressures lead to instability in voters' choices. She theorises that when citizens' socio-demographic characteristics and their membership of social groups do not consistently push them to support one party, but instead lead them to feel cross-pressured between parties, their voting decision process lacks constraint. Voters who are group-based cross-pressured are less likely to feel an attachment to a party, and have less guidance when assessing the state of the economy, when taking positions on issues, or evaluating leaders. The different factors that influence voters' choices, as a result, do not add up to strengthening a preference for one specific party but instead lead a voter to consider different parties.

To test this argument, the book makes use of election survey data from eight established democracies that allow the study of voting behaviour and its correlates over several decades. These data are complemented with data from the European Election Studies project and from election study panels. The book shows that group-based cross-pressures are an important source of instability as they affect the extent to which citizens' voting decision process is structured. This is evident from the fact that cross-pressured voters are more ambivalent between parties, make their voting decision later, and are more likely to switch parties from one election to the next.

Ruth Dassonneville is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the Université de Montréal, and holds a Canada Research Chair in Electoral Democracy. She has held visiting positions at the Australian National University and the GESIS Institute, and was a Jean Monnet Fellow at the European University Institute. Her research focuses on voting behaviour, compulsory voting, political parties, and women and politics. Her work on these topics has been published in the American Journal of Political Science, the British Journal of Political Science, the European Journal of Political Research, and Journal of Politics, among others.

Convenor: Professor Tim Haughton (University of Birmingham)

Discussants: Allan Sikk (UCL) and Kevin Deegan-Krause (Wayne State)


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Research Centre for the Study of Parties and Democracy

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