Project abstract

Objectives

Our main aim is to understand attitudinal and behavioural changes in the Romanian electorate. For this we try to understand and document (A) the differences between various types of elections, (B) how to reconcile different perspectives on turnout and voting behaviour, (C) the effect of the economic recession on turnout and voting, (D) the consequences of electoral formula change, and (E) how one can use survey experiments to produce better estimations of self-reported turnout.

1. Comparing presidential, local, parliamentary and EP elections (among types of elections and cross-nationally) in terms of turnout and voting behaviour.

1.1.   Testing rival explanations of turnout and voting behaviour at individual and aggregate level, in the context of the 2012 (Local & National Elections) and 2014 (EP Elections) electoral years. Given the specificities of the Romanian electoral system, emphasis will be placed on the relation between candidate-related and party-related determinants and how they structure the voting decision.

1.2.   Explaining variations (at micro and macro levels) in political and campaign participation.

2. Evaluating the role of economic factors in structuring and changing the voting decision. Evaluation of political consequences of the economic crisis at individual level.

2.1.   Analysis of change in party support. Which actors are made responsible for the degrading of economic situation, incumbent parties or both incumbent and nonincumbent (Benton 2005)?

2.2.   Analysis of attitudinal and value change on the traditionalism-modernism-postmodernism, materialism-postmaterialism, and state-private dimensions. In the context of economic difficulties a resurgence of traditional, materialist values (Inglehart & Baker 2000) is expected.

2.3.   Analysis of change in support for representative democracy and market economy. During periods of crisis we expect a decrease in the support for democracy (Córdova & Seligson 2009) and market economy (Graham & Sukhtankar 2004). Each type of election will have a significant, yet distinct role in restoring support for democracy and market economy. The relationship between the two may be partially mediated through life satisfaction (Whiteley et al. 2010). Alternatively, it is possible that support for democracy will be enhanced (Graham & Sukhtankar 2004).

2.4.   Analysis of change in the level of political participation, in the support for several forms of protest (legal and illegal), in institutional trust, political trust, as well as trust in elections.

2.5.   Testing how economic recession and different types of elections lead to more or less increase in the levels of life satisfaction.

3. Assessing the effects of electoral system change.

3.1.   Assessing the effects of electoral system change on constituency campaigns in terms of candidate recruitment, electoral programmes and local party mobilization.

3.2.   Evaluating the public perceptions about the differences (quality of representation, corruption, etc.) between the current electoral system and the previous one.

4. Evaluating and improving techniques used for measuring self-reported turnout.

4.1.   Comparing alternative turnout questions (Belli et al. 2006) in Romanian context.

4.2.   Comparing effects induced by different types of counterbiasing information used in turnout questions (Comşa & Gheorghiţă 2011).

4.3.   Re-testing validity of previous conclusions (Comşa & Postelnicu 2011) regarding the validity of the modified Item Count Technique design advanced by Corstange (2009).

4.4.   Validate self-reported turnout. A validated turnout measure will be attained using a previously tested method which has proven to be efficient (Comşa & Gheorghiţă 2011).

5. Increasing the international visibility of Romanian electoral research and connecting it to main international research networks.

5.1.   Consolidating a national network of researchers interested in the field of electoral studies and connecting it to similar networks from other countries through EES and CSES teams.

5.2.   Increasing the visibility and competitiveness of Romanian electoral studies by creating datasets compatible to the international ones (CSES, EES, BES, ANES), allowing comparisons; inclusion of Romanian datasets into integrated cross-national databases.

5.3.   Increasing the visibility of Romanian electoral studies by articles in ISI journals.

5.4.   Developing the formative dimension by involving graduate students in the planning and implementation of the research and disseminating comparative research within Romanian academia through the participation in conferences, seminars, and teaching activities.

Expected results:

  1. Comparison of four types of elections (presidential, local, parliamentary, EP elections) in terms of current topics in the field of electoral studies. This comparison is possible as a result of carrying out panel surveys covering two electoral cycles and all types of elections. Such an endeavour is unique in Romania, whereas globally there are few such datasets (ANES, BES, RUSSET) and most of them are produced in advanced democracies.
  2. A dynamic analysis of the relationship between personal economic well-being and support for democracy. What makes this analysis possible is a conjunction of a „natural experiment” (the economic crisis) and the panel survey conducted by the grant team before the „official” start of the crisis in Romania. Continuing this panel research during and at the end of crisis makes it possible to estimate its impact on several themes within the field of electoral studies.
  3. Design of turnout questions less affected by the social desirability bias. We expect to validate a technique for verifying self-reported turnout and include a validated measure of turnout for each election in the databases. Also, we anticipate advancing and validating a modified ICT design.
  4. Obtain reliable data for improving electoral survey research methodology. As a result of employing the CAPI survey technology we can better monitor fieldwork activity, guide intervention decisions during data collection, address measurement error issues, and decrease nonresponse bias.

Methodology

The methodology of the project includes the following (national representative samples for eligible voters; CAPI; 2009 data are from SER and PES surveys):

  1. Long Term National Panel Survey 2009-2012: three-wave national panel survey (2009-2012);
  2. Short Term National Panel Survey 2012: four-wave national panel survey (2012 electoral year);
  3. Long Term EP Panel Survey 2009-2014: two-wave national panel survey (2009-2014 EP Elect);
  4. Short Term EP Panel Survey 2014: two-wave national panel survey (2014 EP Elections);
  5. Secondary data analysis of official election results and census data;
  6. Case studies (elections results, content analysis of local media, in-depth interviews with local party activists) focused on local organisations of political parties.

References

Belli, R. F., S. Moore, and J. Vanhoewyk. 2006. „An experimental comparison of question forms used to reduce vote overreporting.” Electoral Studies 25:751-759.

Benton, A. L. 2005. „Dissatisfied democrats or retrospective voters? Economic hardship, political institutions, and voting behavior in Latin America.” Comparative Political Studies 38:417-442.

Comşa, M. 2010. „Participarea la vot. De ce (nu) votează oamenii?” in Alegerile pentru Parlamentul European. România 2009, edited by M. Comşa, A. Gheorghiţă, and D. C. Tufiş. Iaşi: Polirom.

Comşa, M. and A. Gheorghiţă. 2011. „“Many”, “half” or “one out of two”? Assesing counter-biasing techniques to reduce the self-reported turnout.” in EPSA 1st Annual General Conference. Dublin, Ireland.

Comşa, M. and C. Postelnicu. 2011. „Measuring social desirability effect on reported turnout using item count technique.” in EPSA 1st Annual General Conference. Dublin, Ireland.

Córdova, A. and M. A. Seligson. 2009. „Economic Crisis and Democracy in Latin America.” PS: Political Science & Politics 42:673.

Corstange, D. 2009. „Sensitive Questions, Truthful Answers? Modeling the List Experiment with LISTIT.” Political Analysis 17:45-63.

Graham, C. and A. Sukhtankar. 2004. „Does economic crisis reduce support for markets and democracy in Latin America? Some evidence from surveys of public opinion and well being.” Journal of Latin American Studies 36:349-377.

Inglehart, R. and W. E. Baker. 2000. „Modernization, Cultural Change, and the Persistence of Traditional Values.” American Sociological Review 65:19-51.

Whiteley, P., H. D. Clarke, D. Sanders, and M. C. Stewart. 2010. „Government Performance and Life Satisfaction in Contemporary Britain.” The Journal of Politics 72:733-746.

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