Post-election Survey 2016 in Slovakia: Manifolds Challenges to Voters’ Memory

Postcard from the Field

Post-election Survey 2016 in Slovakia:
Manifolds Challenges to Voters’ Memory
Olga Gyarfasova

This is the first of our Postcards from the Field series. CSES collaborators provide an update and commentary on election studies recently in the field.

In general, election results are getting more and more unexpected. It is due to growing voters’ volatility, increasing portion of late-deciders, or changes on the political scene (e.g. due to the formation of new parties). High electoral volatility is further catalyzed by social media channels that have proven to be extremely effective in generating quick though often short-lived voter mobilization. All in all – predicting election results has become a very tough job. But the same is true for recalling the vote choice once the interviewer asks you: who did vote for? Especially if this happens some weeks or even months after the election day.

High electoral volatility is a global phenomenon; however, the post-communist countries are affected even more. In newer democracies the alignments between political parties and their electorates do not share historically-grown roots as they do in more mature democracies. The fluctuation of party sympathizers is in addition supported by the unstable political scene (and vice versa – the voters’ demands reinforce the supply of candidates from new parties).

In March 2016 Slovakia held its 9th democratic general elections after the Communist regime collapsed in 1989. Many analysts labeled this election as an “earthquake,” “shock,” or “hurricane”. In any case, an unpredictable phenomenon indeed. Continue reading “Post-election Survey 2016 in Slovakia: Manifolds Challenges to Voters’ Memory”

The Tough Decision to Remove Political Knowledge from the CSES Module 5

The Tough Decision to Remove Political Knowledge from the CSES Module 5
By Elisabeth Gidengil and Elizabeth Zechmeister

Political information questions will be absent from the CSES core module for the first time with the 5th installment of the CSES module. The CSES Planning Committee’s Political Knowledge Subcommittee[1] reached this decision despite shared agreement that political knowledge is a venerated workhorse in the field of voter choice. Differences exist among those high and low in political knowledge in numerous domains, such as economic voting behavior and the use of heuristic aids in voting decisions (though exceptions exist). Given the significance of this concept to scholars of political behavior, voting, and elections, we have some explaining to do.

Evaluation of Past CSES Political Knowledge Batteries

The first task of the Political Knowledge Subcommittee was to evaluate the effectiveness of past political knowledge modules as comparative indicators of political sophistication in the CSES project. We first considered the degree to which previous modules had resulted in sufficient variation in scores within countries to allow for meaningful analysis. Delli Carpini and Keeter (1993) recommend that the level of difficulty vary between 30% and 70% correct answers on the items to be included in a political knowledge index in order to achieve sufficient differentiation.

The first three CSES modules sought to achieve adequate variation by instructing local investigators to select one question that two thirds would answer correctly, one question that half would answer correctly and one question that only one third would answer correctly. This approach was deemed a failure (Elff 2009). In module 2, for example, only seven countries achieved the desired distribution of correct answers. Continue reading “The Tough Decision to Remove Political Knowledge from the CSES Module 5”