In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Modern Elections and Voting Behavior in Europe

  • Introduction
  • Policy Issues and the Vote

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Political Science Modern Elections and Voting Behavior in Europe
Catherine De Vries
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 July 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 May 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0093


Scholarly work on voting behavior in the European context has a long and vibrant history. While the pioneering work of Martin Lipset and Stein Rokkan on frozen party systems provided explanations for the continuity in electoral behavior within countries in western Europe, students of elections and vote choice ever since have been preoccupied mainly with understanding patterns of electoral change. This overview does not purport to include every important contribution or list all relevant details; rather, it aims to provide an insight into the richness and significance of classic and contemporary works exploring trends in voting behavior in Europe. Three core debates currently characterize the study of vote choice in the European context. First, while some authors argue that social cleavages, such as class or religion, have lost their capacity to structure the vote due to the blurring of voters’ social group identifications, others highlight that trends in religious or class voting are nonlinear and nationally specific. Second, and related, electoral scholars disagree about the extent to which short-term factors, such as specific issue attitudes and performance evaluations, have suppressed the impact of more long-term determinants of party choice, such as social identification or ideology. Finally, with the growing wealth of data on electoral behavior in Europe at the regional, national, and European Union (EU) levels, more and more scholarly work is dedicated to specifying the way in which the institutional context in which voters have to make up their minds affects their decisions at the ballot box. This article will touch upon these discussions, highlight important differences in explanations of electoral behavior between eastern Europe and western Europe, and list key data sources that can aid researchers to tackle some of the cardinal issues that still need to be resolved.


This section documents key resources that are available to students of electoral behavior in the European context. It provides an overview of the Journals based in the United States and Europe that publish ongoing research on elections and public opinion in Europe and lists useful national and cross-national Data Sources as well as the Archives that make available of the survey data listed in the subsection Data Sources.

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