When parties undergo abrupt organisational changes between elections – such as when they fuse, split, join or abandon party lists – they alter profoundly the organisation and supply of electoral information to voters.
The alternatives on the ballot are no longer fixed but need to be actively sought out instead. This book examines how voters cope with the complexity triggered by party instability. Breaking with previous literature, it suggests that voters are versatile and ingenious decision-makers. They adapt to informational complexity with a set of cognitively less costly heuristics uniquely suited to the challenges they face.
A closer look at the impact of party instability on the vote advances and qualifies quintessential theories of vote choice, including proximity voting, direction-intensity appeals, economic voting and the use of cognitive heuristics. The rich and nuanced findings illustrate that political parties hold a key to understanding voter behaviour and representation in modern democracy.
'This is a breakthrough work, spotlighting the dynamics of party system instability and voters' coping strategies.'
Paul Sniderman, Stanford
'What is the effect of party system instability on the information environment of voters? What criteria do voters use when organisational instability makes it harder for voters to judge the performance of parties? Based on a novel data set about party instability in Europe, this book convincingly shows that organisational changes lower the information voters have about parties. The book also documents that party volatility influences the criteria voters use to choose among parties. This well-written and persuasive study is a must-read for everyone interested in the way that party system changes affect the ability of voters to hold parties accountable in democratic elections.'
Robert Rohrschneider, Kansas University
'This groundbreaking, original and well-crafted book is a timely effort to better understand voting decision guidelines. Going beyond repetitive statements about voting, it provides a realistic approach by taking into account the fact that voters nowadays have to make their electoral decisions in erratic contexts. The study is a perfect example of what I consider to be outstanding political science. To test a set of theoretically driven hypotheses, it employs impressive research design that combines qualitative and quantitative evidence from a wide range of both mature and young European democracies. The book convincingly shows that parties condition the quality and diffusion of information to citizens. Moreover party instability makes elections low-information environments. In such environments voters take their electoral decisions based on direction and intensity, thereby often choosing parties with extreme ideological positions or alternatively with charismatic leaders. This book is a must for all political scientists who are seeking to understand the decisions of those entering the ballot box in times of party instability.'
Marta Fraile, European Union Institute