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No More Mr.Niche Guy: Multidimensional Issue Voting in Proportional Electoral Systems

  • Author(s): Bergman, Matthew Edward
  • Advisor(s): Chandler, William
  • Shugart, Matthew
  • et al.
Abstract

The past forty years has seen a notable increase in the number of issues on the political agenda of established democracies. These new considerations enter the political marketplace through new parties that focus on specialized issues, such as the environment, immigration, or regional autonomy. The success of these parties has been attributed to how existing mainstream parties engage with these new issues. Yet across

the developed world, these parties continue to make electoral and government inroads. Instead of attributing these niche party's success to their unique agendas, the inability of competitors to successfully engage with their issues, or socio-economic reasons, this dissertation explores these parties as the mainstays of political competition that they have become. In effect, this amounts to examining how these newer parties engage with existing mainstream issues.

Analyses are performed on the macro and micro level that examine whether voters reward niche parties for their engagement in mainstream issues. Cross-nationally, as nationalist parties engage with a broader set of issues, they are rewarded at the polls. Case studies of Italy and Finland are used to examine if voters for nationalist parties do indeed attribute to them competence in economic areas. When the Italian Lega Nord offered a platform similar to its mainstream competitors, voters did not distinguish it from its mainstream rivals on economic stewardship. Similarly, evidence from Finnish post-election surveys indicates that voters who were highly concerned about economic issues supported the nationalist True Finns both in election and government participation. Such findings suggest that understandings of how parties compete on multiple dimensions are ready for an update.

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