Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The importance of ‘rational’ voters for electoral accountability in highly institutionalized party systems
by Argueta, Jose Rene, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2007, 169; 3270074
Abstract (Summary)

It has been argued that “institutionalization” facilitates vertical accountability by providing for strong national parties, with somewhat deep roots in the society. In such settings, citizens with varying combinations of societal characteristics (i.e. race, religion, income, etc.) would be able to identify which party represents their cleavage-generated interests and vote for them, or vote them out of office if they fail their ‘mandate.’

Voting for the party that represents one’s cleavage-generated interests would make the system more stable, since there would be regularity in the way people vote. However, that may not provide the flexibility in voting behavior necessary for vertical accountability to occur. Instead of voters with strong (affective) attachment to a party, vertical accountability would rather require voters that cast their vote based on less stable characteristics of a party such as its past performance, president’s evaluation, candidates’ quality, and other issues argued by rational-choice theorists to be more important than an affective attachment.

This dissertation research tested this hypothesis using survey data from Honduras that registered the voting behavior of different partisans during the national elections of 1997 and 2001. This research found that “rational” voters (moderate partisans and independents) did incorporate the electoral flexibility necessary for electoral accountability. They also exhibited distinctive characteristics that confirm their responsibility for electoral accountability. Rational voters were more likely than affective voters to have higher levels of education and political knowledge and to be more critical of the president’s performance, among other related attitudes.

Notwithstanding the fact that Honduras has a highly institutionalized party system, the mechanisms through which electoral accountability came about were mainly abstention to vote for one’s party and, to a much lesser extent, vote-switching. Thus, voting abstention may not necessarily be an undesirable voting behavior since it may actually play a key role in the realization of electoral accountability.

In summary, this research proved that “affective” voters may provide the system with stability, but that “rational” voters are necessary for the flexibility required for electoral accountability.

Indexing (document details)
School: University of Pittsburgh
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 68/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Political science
Keywords: Electoral accountability, Institutionalized, Party systems, Voters
Publication Number: 3270074
ISBN: 978-0-549-08966-7
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