Summary of Martin Rosema’s Ph.D. dissertation The Sincere Vote: A Psychological Study of Voting. Leiden: University of Leiden, 2004.
Mainstream theories of voting provide rather limited insight into the psychological processes that underlie voting. Yet these theories are based on several assumptions, explicitly or implicitly made, about those processes. This study outlines an alternative, psychological theory of voting, which is tested in the context of four Dutch parliamentary elections. Findings indicate that – contrary to what is usually assumed – up to about one quarter of the electorate did not cast a so-called sincere vote; that is, they did not vote for the party they liked best. To understand this, we need to reject the common idea that all voters decide in the same way. Voters may employ different decision rules, and this explains why some prefer to vote for a party they do not like best.
Three factors appear to be particularly relevant: voting habits, evaluations of party leaders, and preferences concerning the future government. Finally, this study examines whether different parties are liked or disliked for the same reasons, as theories of voting often assume. The analyses presented show that parties are not. For example, whereas feelings about List Pim Fortuyn were strongly influenced by voters’ opinions about asylum seekers, feelings about the other major parties were not. All this means that the voter’s mind works in another way than electoral researchers tend to believe.
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