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Realignment in European Party Systems

Sun, September 2, 8:00 to 9:30am, Hynes, 301


The diversity of issue interests and party options in multiparty systems makes individual electoral decisions increasingly difficult. Voters are challenged to find congruent political representation. Our study integrates voter preferences and the preferences of party elites in a two-dimensional policy space across European Union member states. We identify a common space of political competition for citizens and party elites that is defined by the economic and cultural cleavages. Then we link voter preferences and party positions to explain voting choices cross-nationally. Furthermore, we analyze whether party system polarization, national economic conditions, and structural factors moderate the link between individual political views and party positions across countries. To test our hypotheses, we combine voter and elite studies from the European Election Studies (EES) and employ multilevel structural equation modeling to address the unique statistical challenges of this mass-elite and cross-national analysis. The results reveal a strong link between voters’ own cleavage position and their parties’ choices for the economic and cultural dimension. Additionally, we show that polarization and economic conditions effectively moderate these correlations. Our findings confirm the ongoing realignment of European politics and party systems in this two-dimensional cleavage space.