Does Space Matter? Explaining Abstention because of Indifference and Alienation

Does Space Matter?
Explaining Abstention because of Indifference and Alienation

Toni Rodon

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It), the following work was presented at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA). The presentation, “Does Space Matter? Explaining Abstention because of Indifference and Alienation”, was part of a session dedicated to research using Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) data. The session, “Comparative Perspectives on Political Behaviour: Novel insights using the CSES”, was on September 4, 2016.

The concept of the ‘centre’ is overwhelmingly present in current political discourse. Labelling a candidate or party as left, right or centre is crucial to attracting voters, and highlighting this identifying factor is often employed during political debates to emphasise differences between candidates. This distinction is often raised by emerging political movements and constantly emphasised as a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for parties seeking to win an election. Discussion about the centre in political science research has not been an exception. Since Downs’ (1957) seminal work on ideology in political decision-making, the effects of convergence towards the centre, and similarly polarization, constitute a cornerstone in political science research.

Following the Downsian approach, the effect of this ideological distance has been employed multiple times in order to explain voting behaviour. Notwithstanding this popularity, a surprising gap remains: the impact of ideological distance on abstention. While the effect of ideological distance on voting for a particular party has been a popular tool, its effect on abstention has largely been ignored. This is despite the fact that in previous work Downs himself, as well as Enelow and Hinich (1984), have suggested that individuals may abstain from voting when a party’s priorities or values do not represent voters, otherwise known as “abstention because of alienation”. Voters may also abstain because of indifference between political alternatives that offer the same ideological package. Continue reading “Does Space Matter? Explaining Abstention because of Indifference and Alienation”