CHOOSING POLICY OVER VALENCE - A conjoint experiment on vote choice

University essay from Göteborgs universitet/Statsvetenskapliga institutionen

Abstract: In a representative democracy elections constitute the main channel for individuals to express their will. In each election voters are typically asked to make a single choice on the basis of multiple political preferences. The nature of this process entails that some voters need to choose between preferences. This choice process is suggested to have become more complicated due to recent years changes, with large structural transformations, proposing both an increased division in policy preferences and increased importance of short-term, consensually based, andpersonality related aspects of vote choice (valence voting). Earlier research remains inconclusive about the relative importance of positional and valence issues, and presents challenges both in determining the causal relationship of vote choice determinants and eliciting voters’ true preferences. This thesis contributes to filling this gap by conducting an originalconjoint survey experiment. The study finds that individuals prefer parties with political positions close to their own as well as high valence party leaders. More interestingly though, participants seem to prioritise immigration issues and to be ready to trade-off their position on redistribution and gender equality. Last in the vote calculus rank participants valence issues. The results indicate that we, in a Swedish context, are not witnessing a strong nfluence of valence politics on vote choice but a shift in the main conflict dimensions that structure political competition. Pointing towards an increased importance for political parties to position themselves on the cultural dimension to attract voters.

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