Selection and Sanctioning in European Parliamentary Elections
British Journal of Political Science 41 (3), 2011, pages 477-498
Elections are inherently about selecting good candidates for public office and sanctioning incumbents for past performance. Yet, in the low salience context of ‘second-order elections’ to the European Parliament, empirical evidence suggests that voters sanction first-order national incumbents. However, no previous study has examined whether voters also use these elections to select good candidates. This article draws on a unique dataset on the political experience of party representatives in eighty-five national elections to the European Parliament to evaluate the extent to which voters prefer candidates with more political experience. The results show that selection considerations do matter. Parties that choose experienced top candidates are rewarded by voters. This effect is greatest when European elections are held in the middle of the national electoral cycle.