How do voters decide whom to vote for?

In a new British Journal of Political Science article, Jørgen Bølstad and Elias Dinas present a new theory of voting behavior.


The question of how voters decide which party or candidate to vote for has been the subject of heated debates among political scientists for decades. The dominant theory of proximity voting holds that voters prefer the party closest to themselves in ideological terms. This study modifies the proximity theory, drawing on social psychology. In particular, the authors present a categorization theory, which holds that voters categorize parties according to their side of the center (e.g. Left or Right), and only then perform a finer, proximity-based assessment. An important implication is that voters may disregard the party closest to themselves if it is not on their side of the political spectrum. This theory finds support in a number of empirical tests and robustness checks.

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Jørgen Bølstad and Elias Dinas
A Categorization Theory of Spatial Voting: How the Center Divides the Political Space

British Journal of Political Science, 2016, vol. 47(4), pp.1-22


Published Feb. 10, 2016 3:44 PM - Last modified Sep. 29, 2017 12:06 PM