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Eric Guntermann



Party influence where predispositions are strong and party identification is weak: Assessing citizens’ reactions to party cues on regional nationalism in Spain

I show that party positions on issues that are rooted in identity influence people’s opinions even if they lack a party identification. When exposed to competing party positions, citizens adjust their issue opinions to make them more consistent with their preferred party’s position even if they do not identify with that party. In two experiments conducted in Spain, I consider how citizens react to party cues on regional nationalism. Study 1, a lab experiment in Catalonia, shows that, when exposed to party cues on nationalism, citizens change their issue opinions in the expected direction but only weakly change their party evaluations. Study 2, a survey experiment in Galicia, shows that party cue effects only occur when participants are exposed to competing cues from their preferred party and from a disliked party. Parties thus influence opinions when they adopt contrasting positions even on issues that are rooted in identity.
You can download the final (pre-publication) version here

Linking Party Preferences and the Composition of Government: A New Standard for Evaluating the Performance of Electoral Democracy

We propose a new standard for evaluating the performance of electoral democracies: the correspondence between citizens’ party preferences and the party composition of governments that are formed after elections. We develop three criteria for assessing such correspondence: the proportion of citizens whose most preferred party is in government, whether the party that is most liked overall is in government, and how much more positively governing parties are rated than non-governing parties. We pay particular attention to the last criterion, which takes into account how each citizen feels about each of the parties as well as the intensity of their preferences. We find that proportional representation systems perform better on the first criterion. Majoritarian systems do better on the other two.

Current Projects

Policy Voting and the Representation of Policy Preferences (with Mikael Persson)

Recent studies have suggested that policy preferences have little if any impact on citizens’ vote choices. Thus, governments should feel little or no incentive to enact the policies citizens want and not enact those they do not want. However, these studies contrast with other findings suggesting that governments generally do what citizens actually want. Using an original dataset on policy implementation and Swedish National Election Studies data going back to 1956, we consider the extent to which citizens adjust their vote choice during election campaigns to reflect their policy preferences. We then consider whether their preferences are more likely to be implemented the more they vote on the basis of policy. We find that issue voting increases the likelihood that governments implement citizens’ policy preferences. I presented this paper as a poster at MPSA in April 2017. Click here to download the poster or here to download the current version of the paper.

Representation in Canada: How Close Are Governments to Citizens’ Preferences?

I apply two approaches, ideological congruence and the representation of party preferences, to evaluate how well governments formed in Canada following elections held since 2000 represent Canadians’ preferences. I first show that Canadians have centrist preferences, but, nevertheless, have distinct evaluations of each party. I then show that governments in Canada most of the time score highly on three of four criteria for evaluating representation. If coalition governments had been formed following these elections they would have improved party preference representation on at least one criterion but only improved ideological congruence when the Conservative Party of Canada governed, because the Liberals share the position of the median voter. I then show that changes in the representation of party preferences matter more for determining citizens’ satisfaction with democracy than changes in ideological congruence. I thus conclude that we should care about how well represented party preferences are. By this standard, there are clear trade-offs involved in moving towards more proportional governments. Click here to download the current version of the paper.

Income Distributions and the Relative Representation of Rich and Poor Citizens (with Mikael Persson)

In this paper, we consider the impact of the income distributions in different countries on the representation of preferences for more or less government spending in different policy domains. We show that the more right-skewed the income distribution, meaning the more incomes in the upper half of the distribution are spread out compared to those in the lower half, the closer the preferences of middle-income citizens are to those of the poor relative to those of the rich. Since policies are more likely to be implemented by governments the more citizens support them, the poor are advantaged relative to the rich when the income distribution is more right-skewed. We use survey data from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES), income distribution data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and government spending data from the OECD and the World Bank. I presented this paper at MPSA in April 2017. Click here to download the current version of the paper.


Parties and Nationalism: Assessing the Influence of Parties on Support for Regional Nationalism in Spain

I consider whether parties influence support for regional nationalism in four regions of Spain: the Basque Country, Catalonia, the Valencian Community, and Galicia. I argue that the fundamental way parties influence citizens' opinions is by offering party cues. Citizens adapt their opinions to party cues even in the absence of persuasive arguments or other information. The current literature suggests that such influence takes place via partisan motivated reasoning.

I then analyze both observational and experimental data to determine whether citizens of the four Spanish regions where nationalism is present adapt their nationalist preferences to the positions expressed by parties. In chapter 4, I focus on the measurement of party positions using automated text analysis of legislative speeches. In chapter 5, I consider whether people who like a party move in the same direction as that party when it changes its nationalist positions and whether those who feel distant from a party move in the opposite direction when it shifts its positions. We will see that the results suggest that nationalist parties influence their partisans in the Basque Country and Catalonia. Statewide parties seem to play a stronger role in Galicia and the Valencian Community.

In chapter 6, using experimental data, I show that, people who did not already know the position of their most liked party, when exposed to that position as well as to the position of a party they dislike, adapt their opinions to make them more consistent with the position of their most liked party. The positions of parties citizens like are not enough to induce them to change their opinions.

I conclude that parties influence the opinions of citizens on nationalism. However, this influence depends on the presence of the positions of parties citizens do not like. Parties cannot simply influence their own partisans by adopting the positions they would like them to adopt.

You can download it here