Introduction to political behaviour

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The study of political behaviour goes far beyond the observation of overt actions. It also involves examining political attitudes, beliefs, values and opinions. These more subjective and sometimes less visible aspects of political behaviour are just as important as more overt political behaviour, such as voting or taking part in demonstrations.

The term "political behaviour" might seem restrictive, as it evokes observable and concrete actions. However, in the field of political science, this term is generally used to designate a much broader field of study, which includes not only actions, but also thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, opinions and values linked to politics. Indeed, these more abstract elements are crucial to understanding politics and how societies function. For example, an individual's political values, although not always translated into concrete actions, can influence his or her perception of policies, parties and candidates, and guide future political decisions. Similarly, a person's political opinions and beliefs, even if not expressed through actions, can have a significant impact on their political alignment and support for different causes.

Fields of Study in Political Behaviour: An Overview[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Political behaviour can be broadly classified into two categories: conventional political behaviour and unconventional political behaviour. These two types of behaviour are characterised by different forms of political participation.

Conventional political behaviour[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Conventional political behaviour, also known as electoral behaviour, focuses primarily on the actions and decisions of voters during elections. There are two main aspects to this field of study: electoral participation and voting choices.

  • Electoral participation: This involves examining who chooses to participate in elections and who chooses to abstain, as well as the reasons for these choices. Factors that can influence voter turnout include age, education, socio-economic status, civic engagement, sense of political efficacy, interest in politics, and many others. Institutional factors, such as the ease of voting and the type of electoral system, may also play a role.
  • Voting choice: This area explores who or what people vote for. This can be influenced by factors such as political ideology, group membership, evaluation of the government or incumbents, specific policy issues, and perceptions of the competence of candidates, among other things.

By combining these two aspects - who votes and how they vote - researchers can get a more complete picture of electoral behaviour. This information can then be used to understand electoral trends, predict election results, and inform efforts to increase voter turnout and civic engagement.

The study of voting behaviour, which is an important facet of political behaviour, focuses primarily on these three fundamental questions: who votes, how they vote and why they vote the way they do.

  • Who votes: This involves examining the characteristics of voters, such as age, gender, level of education, socio-economic class, race or ethnic origin, and other demographic factors. It may also involve examining institutional factors that may influence turnout, such as voter registration laws, the type of ballot, etc.
  • How they vote: This involves looking at who or what people vote for. For example, do they vote for a particular political party, a specific candidate, or based on a specific issue?
  • Why they vote the way they do: This is the stage where researchers try to explain the motivations behind people's voting choices. This can include examining political attitudes and beliefs, party affiliations, perceptions of candidates and issues, economic conditions, and other factors.

Studying these three issues can help to understand not only the results of a specific election, but also broader electoral trends, how democracy works, and how various factors can influence the electoral process. As the name suggests, electoral behaviour refers to elections, so we study behaviour at elections, who votes, for which party and which candidate.

Switzerland is unique in that it has a system of direct democracy, where citizens have the power to vote not only on political representatives, but also on specific public policies, proposed legislation and policy reforms. This adds another dimension to the study of electoral behaviour. Although representative elections (i.e. voting for candidates or political parties) are the most commonly studied type of voting in terms of electoral behaviour, the analysis of direct democracy, such as popular votes in Switzerland, can provide unique and valuable insights. By applying methods for studying voting behaviour to popular votes, researchers can gain valuable insights into how citizens interact with specific and direct political issues, providing a more complete picture of the Swiss political landscape and direct democracy in action.

Unconventional political behaviour[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The study of unconventional political behaviour focuses on the types of political engagement that take place outside traditional channels such as voting or party activism. Two major examples of this are protest politics and new social movements.

Collective action is a major aspect of unconventional political behaviour. It encompasses any form of activity in which individuals come together to achieve a common goal, often related to defending shared interests or promoting social or political change. Collective action can take many forms, from public demonstrations to strikes and online awareness campaigns. It can involve a formal organisation, such as a trade union or advocacy group, or it can be a more spontaneous mobilisation of citizens around a specific issue or cause. The study of collective action as a component of political behaviour seeks to understand how and why these forms of mobilisation occur. It examines questions such as: What motivates individuals to take part in collective action? How do collective action groups form and how do they function? What factors contribute to the success or failure of collective action?

Protest politics is a specific subset of collective action that focuses on challenging the existing order and promoting change. It represents a form of political engagement that goes beyond the conventional political system and seeks to exert pressure on power structures to bring about change. Protest politics often involves groups mobilising around a specific demand or set of demands. These demands are generally presented to political leaders, such as the government, parliament or other decision-makers, to attract their attention and influence their action.

Protest politics is a very broad concept that encompasses a multitude of forms of collective action. Groups engaged in protest politics often seek to bring about change by using tactics that go beyond traditional avenues of political participation. Here are some of the forms that protest politics can take:

  • Social movements: These are organised groups of people who come together around a common interest or cause. Social movements can have a wide variety of objectives, from human rights to environmental protection, and they can use a variety of tactics to achieve these objectives.
  • Revolts and revolutions: These forms of collective action are often more radical and may involve direct attempts to overthrow a government or political system. They can be violent or non-violent, and can be widely supported by the public or limited to a small group of activists.
  • Civil wars: In some cases, political protest can degenerate into large-scale armed conflict. Civil wars are usually the result of deep and intractable disagreements over political power, national identity, human rights or other key issues.
  • Terrorism: This is an extreme form of political protest that uses violence to create a climate of fear and achieve political objectives. It is important to note that terrorism is generally considered illegal and immoral by the international community.
  • Community activism: This is a form of political mobilisation that focuses on issues specific to a particular community. Community activists often work to solve local problems by organising citizens, influencing public policy and providing direct services. This activism can encompass a wide variety of issues including, but not limited to, housing, education, health and the environment.
  • Grassroots organising: This form of political engagement focuses on mobilising ordinary citizens to participate more actively in political life. This can involve activities such as door-to-door canvassing, telephone campaigns, fundraising and political training. The idea is to strengthen grassroots political participation and encourage more people to become involved in the political process.
  • Creation of alternative media: In a world increasingly dominated by large media companies, the creation of alternative media offers a way for marginalised groups to make their voices heard. This can involve the creation of newspapers, radio stations, TV channels, websites, podcasts or other forms of media that offer different perspectives and information to that provided by the mainstream media. Alternative media can play a crucial role in disseminating information, mobilising support and challenging the dominant discourse.
  • Strikes: A strike is a collective action in which a group of workers stop working to express their discontent and press for change. Strikes can be used to demand pay rises, better working conditions, union recognition, or other work-related demands. They can be particularly effective because they directly disrupt production or service provision, putting economic pressure on employers. Strikes can also be led by students, as we have seen with the recent climate strikes led by young people around the world.

Each of these forms of protest politics has its own dynamics, challenges and potential consequences. Studying these different types of action can help researchers, policy-makers and the public to better understand how social movements and political conflicts develop and how they can be resolved.

The 'new social movements' represent a crucial turning point in the way citizens engage in protest action. These movements differ significantly from traditional social movements, such as trade unions, in terms of their themes, organisational structures and mobilisation techniques. Firstly, in terms of themes and objectives, these new social movements are broader in scope and often focus on societal, cultural and political issues. For example, the environmental movement fights to protect the environment and combat climate change. The LGBTQ+ rights movement, on the other hand, is dedicated to promoting equal rights and social acceptance. Secondly, these movements tend to have less formal and more decentralised organisational structures than traditional social movements. They may have no clearly defined leadership or formal organisational structures. This decentralisation can enable them to adapt more quickly and creatively to changing conditions and challenges. Finally, the mobilisation techniques of these new social movements have been transformed by the advent of social media and other digital technologies. They have the capacity to mobilise supporters on a wider and more effective scale than ever before. Online campaigns, virtual demonstrations and other forms of digital mobilisation are now commonplace tools.

Mobilisation within these new social movements is characterised by its use of unconventional forms of action. These actions go beyond the usual institutional channels, such as voting or collecting signatures for referendums or initiatives. They seek to attract public attention, generate debate and exert pressure for political change.

  • Demonstrations: Demonstrations are a common form of unconventional political action. Citizens gather in public to express their support for or opposition to a particular policy. These events are often highly visible and can attract media attention, helping to raise public awareness and put pressure on politicians.
  • Boycotts: Boycotts are another form of unconventional political action. They involve refusing to buy products or services to protest against the actions of a company or government. Boycotts can effectively exert economic pressure and push for a change in behaviour or policy.
  • Sit-ins: A sit-in is a non-violent form of protest where individuals occupy a space to express their opposition to a certain policy or practice. By refusing to move, participants in sit-ins draw attention to their cause and can disrupt the normal functioning of a place, be it a government office, a restaurant, a university, etc. Sit-ins were a major tool of protest during the civil rights movement in the United States in the 1960s and continue to be used by various social movements today.

These unconventional forms of action play a crucial role in modern democracy. They allow citizens to express themselves and mobilise outside traditional institutional structures, providing additional avenues for influencing the course of politics and social change.

Conventional political behaviour embodies citizen involvement through institutional channels. This includes taking part in elections, signing petitions or collecting signatures to launch initiatives or referendums. These actions are the traditional expression of political involvement. They involve the official mechanisms that the political system has put in place to enable citizens to express their opinions and participate in decision-making. However, not all citizens limit themselves to these forms of political expression. For some, these institutional channels may seem insufficient to express their demands or achieve their political objectives fully. This is where unconventional political behaviour comes in. Unconventional political behaviour occurs when citizens go beyond traditional institutional frameworks to make their voices heard. Demonstrations, strikes, occupations and boycotts all fall into this category. These tactics are often employed when citizens feel the need to highlight unresolved issues, stimulate debate and exert more direct pressure for political change. Both types of behaviour play crucial roles in a democratic society. Conventional actions enable democratic institutions to function smoothly. At the same time, unconventional actions can highlight deeper issues, stimulate discussion and catalyse political change.

Frequently Asked Questions in the Study of Political Behaviour[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The study of political behaviour, whether in Switzerland or abroad, can focus on several key questions.

  • The effect of age on political participation: Several studies have shown that age has a significant effect on political participation. This effect is not only due to ageing, but also to the individual's life course and membership of a certain generation. The question then arises: how do these factors influence electoral behaviour? What makes some older people vote more or less than others? These are key questions for understanding how age and life course influence political participation.
  • Involvement in social movements: Another crucial question in the study of political behaviour concerns involvement in social movements. Why do some people choose to get involved in these movements, while others do not? Are some individuals more inclined to engage in collective action than others? And if so, what are the individual traits or factors that predispose certain individuals to get involved in collective action and social movements?
  • Individual determinants of voting behaviour: To understand voting patterns and variations from one election to the next, researchers study the individual determinants of voting behaviour. This includes factors such as age, social class, education, gender, religion, ethnic origin and political values. The aim is to identify regularities and patterns in voting behaviour. For example, what personal characteristics make an individual more likely to vote for a conservative party than a progressive one? Understanding these individual determinants can help predict election results and target voter mobilisation efforts.
  • The rise of right-wing populist parties in Europe: Another key issue in the study of political behaviour is the rise of right-wing populist parties in Europe. These parties, such as the Union Démocratique du Centre (UDC) in Switzerland, have gained ground in many countries. What factors explain this rise? Are the causes the same in different countries, or does each country have its own dynamic? Researchers are looking for patterns that could help us to understand this political trend and anticipate its future development.
  • The influence of involvement in associations on the integration of foreigners: Involvement in associations is often seen as a factor that promotes the social and political integration of foreigners. Researchers such as Marco Giugni and Matteo Gianni are attempting to verify this hypothesis by studying the effect of associative involvement on the level and type of integration of foreigners living in Switzerland. They are seeking to determine whether associative integration can constitute an effective model of integration for these populations.
  • The impact of citizenship models on the mobilisation of immigrants: Citizenship models vary greatly from one country to another. Some countries favour jus soli (nationality is determined by place of birth), while others are based on jus sanguinis (nationality is determined by that of the parents). In addition, some countries have more liberal integration policies than others. Can these variations have an impact on the level of political mobilisation of immigrants? This question is the subject of international research aimed at assessing the effect of different models of citizenship on immigrants' political involvement.
  • The influence of electoral campaigns and the media on the formation of opinions prior to an election or vote: This is a dynamic perspective focusing on how voters form their opinions prior to a vote or election. The role of election campaigns and the media in this process is crucial. Some people may have a preconceived opinion and know from the outset who or what they are going to vote for, so that the election campaign has little influence on their final decision. In this case, election campaigns would act mainly as confirmations of existing beliefs. However, in other cases, campaigns can play a considerable role in opinion formation. For example, they can inform voters about issues of which they were previously unaware, they can highlight specific aspects of candidates' personalities, or they can change voters' perceptions of key issues. In this context, the media also play a crucial role. Through their coverage of campaigns, they can influence the public agenda and, consequently, the issues that voters consider important. Moreover, through the way they present candidates and issues, they can also influence voters' perceptions. Overall, the study of the influence of election campaigns and the media on opinion formation is a complex and multidimensional area of political behaviour.

We will leave aside unconventional political behaviour and focus on conventional political behaviour.

Three Dominant Models for Explaining Voting Behaviour[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

There are three main traditional theories in the study of electoral behaviour, which emerged at the beginning of the twentieth century or during its first half. These theories have therefore been around for more than half a century, which justifies their classification as "classic" in the field of explaining voting. That said, over time, more recent models have emerged to explain electoral behaviour. Nevertheless, it is crucial to begin by understanding these classical theories, as they continue to be major references for understanding voting.

The field of political behaviour is relatively recent, its birth being intimately linked to the availability of data. Opinion polls, which appeared between the 1920s and 1940s, enabled a more individualised approach to the study of political behaviour. Prior to this, the study was mainly based on aggregate data, such as the results of elections or votes by canton or municipality. The distribution of results at municipal or cantonal level was therefore examined. The absence of survey data for a long period limited the possibility of studying political behaviour at an individual level, i.e. examining each individual separately. This situation explains why the field of study of political behaviour, as we know it today, emerged relatively late, mainly from the years 1945 and 1950 onwards.

The Socio-structural Model[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Paul Lazarsfeld.

The first major school of vote explanation is commonly known as the Columbia School. It takes its name from Columbia University, where several researchers, including the famous Paul Lazarsfeld, developed this approach.

The Columbia School is known for its theory of the sociological influence on voting behaviour, which was developed in the 1940s and 1950s. Paul Lazarsfeld and his colleagues looked at the way in which social relationships and membership of social groups can influence an individual's choice of vote. From their perspective, voting is not an isolated decision taken by an independent individual, but is strongly influenced by membership of groups such as family, friends, work colleagues and religious communities. In other words, people are often influenced by the political opinions and voting behaviour of those around them. One of the most famous studies carried out by the Columbia School is 'The People's Choice', which analysed voting behaviour in the 1940 US presidential election. This study found that people were most likely to be influenced by 'opinion leaders' within their respective social groups, and that these leaders played a key role in shaping public opinion.

Paul Lazarsfeld and his colleagues at Columbia School carried out a remarkable and innovative study of electoral behaviour, which focused on a specific county in the state of Ohio. Although his geographical sample was limited, Lazarsfeld's methodological approach was extremely detailed and rigorous. The study used a longitudinal survey method, also known as a panel survey, in which the same people were interviewed repeatedly over a period of time. More specifically, Lazarsfeld carried out six waves of surveys, making it possible to observe how people's opinions and electoral behaviour changed over time.

This approach offered valuable insights into the dynamics of electoral behaviour that could not have been captured by a one-off survey. Indeed, the possibility of following the same individuals over time made it possible to observe changes in opinion and the factors that influence them. In addition, the longitudinal study made it possible to distinguish changes over time (period effects) from differences between individuals (cohort effects) and changes that occur as people age (age effects). Despite the geographical limitations of the study, Lazarsfeld's work laid the foundations for subsequent research into electoral behaviour, and the panel survey method has become a standard technique in the social sciences.

Lazarsfeld's study of the 1940 US presidential election was revolutionary in many ways. He was not so much interested in predicting the outcome of the vote, as is often the case with modern opinion polls, but rather in understanding the motivations that led voters to choose one party over another. From this perspective, Lazarsfeld did not seek to predict the outcome of the election, but rather sought to explain a posteriori why some voters voted for the Republican party and others for the Democratic party. Its main objective was therefore to explore and understand the factors that influence voters' choices. This represented an innovative and more nuanced approach to the study of electoral behaviour. Rather than simply seeking to predict the outcome on the basis of demographic or socio-economic data, Lazarsfeld wanted to understand the underlying, deeper factors that motivate an individual's voting choice. This approach is still widely used today in the field of political science.

To sum up, the results of Lazarsfeld's study gave rise to the socio-structural model, also known as the Columbia model. As its name suggests, this model highlights the considerable influence of socio-structural factors on voting behaviour. One of the fundamental conclusions of the study is that "a person's political thinking is a reflection of his or her social condition. Social characteristics determine political preferences". This model for explaining voting has a profoundly deterministic character, which could be summed up by the idea that "tell me who you are socially, and I'll tell you how you vote". According to this approach, individuals have a very clear idea of their voting choice well before election day. What's more, this choice is considered to be very stable over time, because an individual's social integration remains relatively constant. Thus, the stability of the vote is due to the stability of the individual's social integration.

In the Columbia model, the factors that determine voting are mainly socio-demographic or socio-structural characteristics. These characteristics include socio-economic status, which is reflected in the individual's level of education, income and social class. Religion and place of residence are also considered key factors in determining voting behaviour in this model. Thus, according to the Columbia model, each socio-structural element plays a specific role in voting behaviour.

  • Socio-economic status: Level of education, income and social class all have a significant influence on voting behaviour. For example, people with higher levels of education are generally more likely to participate in elections and to be politically engaged. Similarly, some research suggests that people from higher socio-economic classes are more likely to vote for conservative or right-wing political parties, while people from lower socio-economic classes tend to vote for left-wing or progressive parties.
  • Religion: Religion can also have a significant influence on voting behaviour. Religious beliefs can shape a person's political values and attitudes, which in turn can influence their choice of party or candidate. For example, in the United States, evangelical Christian voters are more likely to vote for the Republican party, while Jewish voters are generally more likely to support the Democratic party.
  • Place of residence: Place of residence can also influence voting behaviour. People living in urban areas tend to have more liberal or progressive political views, while those living in rural areas tend to be more conservative. This can be linked to a variety of factors, including differences in the local economy, education levels and demographic diversity.

In this Columbia model, a person's vote is strongly influenced by the socio-structural characteristics of the group to which they belong. So if we know these characteristics - such as socio-economic status, religion and place of residence - and if these factors are complementary, we can predict a person's voting choice fairly accurately. In other words, voting is highly predetermined, there is a substantial predisposition to vote based on the characteristics of the group to which an individual belongs. This is what we call the pre-structuring of voting. Voting decisions are strongly rooted in the individual's social and economic identity, shaped by the characteristics of the group to which he or she belongs.

This model for explaining voting has a close connection with the literature on social cleavages. The idea here is that if a social divide is very marked and individuals identify strongly with one or other side of that divide, then knowledge of that person's individual characteristics on that specific dimension can provide a significant clue to their voting behaviour. For example, if an individual identifies strongly with a religious divide that pits Catholics against Protestants, knowing this religious affiliation can provide a relatively accurate prediction of how that person will vote.

In Switzerland, religious affiliations have historically played a significant role in defining voting behaviour. In the Catholic cantons, there was a clear dichotomy between those who assiduously practised their religion and those who were more secular. Although most people in these cantons considered themselves to be Catholic, the difference in religious practice often translated into distinct voting choices. The religiously observant tended to support the Christian Democratic Party (PDC), while the secular tended to vote for the Radical Liberal Party. Of course, this was not an absolute rule, but a general trend. In the non-Catholic cantons, the division was different, between Catholics and Protestants. Catholics tended to support the CVP, while Protestants were more inclined to support the Radical Party or the Socialist Party, and more recently the Union Démocratique du Centre (UDC).

The Psychosociological Model[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The second major school of explanation of voting, also known as the Michigan model, was developed by the University of Michigan, which conducted the first nationwide opinion polls in the United States. The model grew out of an in-depth investigation into the voting behaviour of Americans, which provided new insights into how individuals make their electoral decisions. Unlike Lazarsfeld, who based his research on a single county in Ohio, the University of Michigan broadened its field of study by conducting the first scientific opinion surveys on presidential elections on a national scale. These efforts then led to the creation of the American Election Studies Project, which the University of Michigan still oversees to this day. This project has collected valuable data on electoral trends across the country, providing a much broader view of electoral dynamics in the United States.

The Michigan school considers partisan identification, which is an individual's feeling of being close to or aligned with a certain political party, to be the determining factor in electoral behaviour. This approach differs markedly from the Columbia school, which focuses on socio-demographic factors. According to the Michigan school, it is more important to understand the individual psychosociological orientations of each voter than to focus on the social or demographic group to which they belong. Partisan identification represents a psychological link between the voter and the political party. It can be a strong identification, where the voter feels deeply aligned with a particular party, or a weaker identification, where the voter generally feels in agreement with a party but is open to other options. This identification is influenced by a variety of factors, including the voter's personal beliefs and values, past experiences, social environment and perception of political parties.

Partisan identification, according to the Michigan school, is understood as an affective attachment to a political party. This attachment is not necessarily based on specific policies or ideological positions, but rather on a feeling of belonging and alignment with the image and general values that the party represents. This means that partisan identification can be resilient, even if an individual does not agree with every policy position or candidate of the party. This sense of belonging can be influenced by a variety of factors, including political socialisation (for example, if parents identify strongly with a party, the child may too), membership of specific social or demographic groups aligned with the party, or the individual's personal perceptions and experiences. Moreover, this partisan identification can play a key role in the decision-making process during an election. Voters may use their partisan identification as a 'short cut' to evaluate candidates and issues, relying on their partisan affiliation to guide them in voting. This can also lead to greater stability in voting behaviour, as individuals are likely to vote for the same party across different elections.

According to the Michigan School, partisan identification is strongly influenced by family political socialisation. In other words, parents' political preferences can be passed on to their children, which can lead to early partisan identification that remains relatively stable throughout life. Political socialisation within the family can include political conversations, participation in family elections, or simply exposure to parents' political views. These experiences can lead children to identify with a specific political party and to adopt values and political beliefs similar to those of their parents. However, it is important to note that although party identification is often stable, it is not immutable. Individuals can change their partisan identification in response to major changes in politics or in their personal lives, although these changes are generally less frequent than stability. In addition, factors such as education, work experience and participation in social groups outside the family can also influence partisan identification.

The Michigan model places great emphasis on the stability of political preferences, particularly through partisan identification. This strong and often lasting bond with a specific political party is supposed to influence voting behaviour throughout an individual's life. According to this model, once a person has identified with a political party, this identification tends to influence not only who they vote for, but also how they interpret political information and how they perceive candidates and political issues. For example, a person who identifies strongly with a political party may be more likely to give credence to the positions of that party and its candidates, even when confronted with contradictory information.

In Michigan's model, partisan identification plays a central role in electoral behaviour. It is seen as a "cognitive shortcut" or "heuristic", meaning that it helps voters to simplify the decision-making process in the often complex and information-overloaded political context. In other words, once a person identifies with a party, they don't necessarily need to spend a lot of time analysing every political position, every candidate or every issue on the agenda. Instead, partisan identification provides a simplified framework that guides the individual's political preferences and decisions. Partisan identification can affect not only the choice of vote, but also the way in which individuals perceive and interpret political information. For example, individuals may tend to interpret information in a way that reinforces their existing beliefs and supports their preferred party. This tendency is often referred to as "confirmation bias".

Partisan identification acts as an information filter or shortcut (also known as a "heuristic") that helps individuals navigate through the complex ocean of political information. Due to lack of time, resources, or simply the sheer volume of information to be processed, not all voters can be constantly informed and make a detailed assessment of every political issue. This is where partisan identification comes in. For example, if an individual identifies themselves as a Democrat or Republican, they are likely to adopt the viewpoints and policy positions that are generally associated with that party, even if they do not fully understand the details of each issue. Similarly, an individual may use their partisan identification to evaluate new political information, more readily accepting information that is consistent with their party line and rejecting information that is not. This is not necessarily a bad thing - these shortcuts can be very useful in helping to cope with the complexity of modern politics. However, they can also sometimes lead to errors or biases in judgement, by causing important information to be ignored or by trapping voters in information bubbles that reinforce their existing beliefs.

Although partisan identification is the keystone of Michigan's model, other variables are also taken into account. Michigan's model distinguishes between long-term influences (such as partisan identification) and short-term influences (such as perceptions of candidates and current political issues) on voting behaviour. Partisan identification, which is the key factor in Michigan's model, is considered a long-term influence because it is generally acquired early in life and remains relatively stable over time. As mentioned earlier, it is transmitted from generation to generation through political socialisation, and it guides the electoral behaviour of individuals throughout their lives. On the other hand, perceptions of candidates and current political issues are short-term influences. These factors can change over the course of an election campaign and influence a voter's choice at a given time. For example, a controversy surrounding a candidate or a pressing political issue may cause voting intentions to fluctuate. However, although these short-term factors can influence voting behaviour, the Michigan model maintains that partisan identification remains the strongest influence. Short-term factors can modify a voter's choice, but they generally do so within the framework of his or her partisan identification. For example, a voter may be more likely to change his mind about a candidate or a political issue if he is already weakly attached to his party.

Michigan's model presents partisan identification as the predominant factor influencing voting behaviour, with attitudes on specific issues or candidates serving as secondary factors that may lead to short-term variations. This is not to say that attitudes on specific issues or candidates are not important, but rather that in most cases they are overshadowed by partisan identification. For example, a voter who strongly identifies with a party is likely to continue to vote for that party even if some of its positions on specific issues or candidates do not perfectly match his or her personal preferences. However, if the gap between the voter's preferences and those of his or her party becomes too great, or if a particular issue becomes extremely important to him or her, it is possible that the voter will choose to vote against his or her usual party. This is generally considered to be the exception to the rule of stable party identification. In sum, the Michigan model emphasises continuity and stability in voting behaviour, while recognising that changes may occur as a result of specific events or changes in voters' attitudes to specific issues or candidates.

== The Rational Choice Model

The Rational Choice School, also known as Rational Choice Theory, is closely associated with Anthony Downs, who developed many of its fundamental ideas while working at the University of Rochester. Downs published "An Economic Theory of Democracy" in 1957, in which he presented an economic model of political behaviour. According to him, just like consumers in a market, voters and political parties make rational decisions based on their interests. Voters would vote for the party or candidate that would maximise their benefits (for example, by adopting policies that best matched their preferences), and political parties would position themselves to attract as many voters as possible.

This approach has been widely adopted and developed in political science and economics, and has led to much research into electoral behaviour, political party formation, political decision-making and other aspects of politics. It is a very different model from those proposed by the Columbia and Michigan Schools, as it does not focus on socio-demographic or psychological factors, but on rational decisions based on self-interest.

Anthony Downs' rational choice theory has had a considerable influence not only on political science, but also on other areas of the social sciences. The central idea is that individuals act rationally to maximise their own interests. In other words, they make choices based on what they believe is best for them. In his book "An Economic Theory of Democracy", Downs applied this theory to electoral behaviour, arguing that voters vote for the party or candidate they believe will bring the most benefits. Political parties, in turn, seek to maximise their support by tailoring their policies to appeal to the majority of voters. However, rational choice theory has also been used to analyse a multitude of other political behaviours and institutions. For example, it has been used to study the formation of government coalitions, the functioning of bureaucracies, the creation of rules and regulations, and much more.

In the Rational Choice School model, it is not the voter's profile that determines their vote, but rather their own assessments of the candidates or political parties based on their personal interests. Voters are seen as rational agents who vote to maximise their utility, i.e. they choose the candidate or party they believe is most likely to promote their interests. Thus, rather than focusing on demographic characteristics or psycho-sociological attitudes, the Rational Choice School is interested in how voters evaluate parties and candidates in terms of their own interests. This might involve an assessment of their policies, past performance, likelihood of success, and other factors. The Rational Choice School also introduces the notion of the calculating voter. In this model, the voter is seen as a person who weighs up the pros and cons of each option before making a choice. This means that voting is not necessarily an emotional or irrational decision, but rather the result of a rational calculation of the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

The rational choice model, unlike the Columbia and Michigan models, focuses on individual decision-making rather than on socio-demographic or psychological factors. According to this model, electoral behaviour is not necessarily predetermined, but is rather the result of cost-benefit calculations made by the individual. From this perspective, voters are seen as rational actors who weigh up each option's costs and benefits before deciding. This is known as the "utilitarian" approach to voting. Individuals analyse the different voting options available and choose the one they believe will maximise their utility or satisfaction. This means that voting is not necessarily linked to an individual's social or psychological identity, but is rather the result of a rational decision-making process. In this model, understanding voting behaviour requires an understanding of the cost-benefit calculations that each individual makes. This process can vary considerably from one individual to another, making voting behaviour less predictable than in the Columbia or Michigan models.

The rational choice school postulates that voters carry out a cost-benefit calculation before making a voting decision. Benefits can be seen as the set of advantages that the voter expects from a party or candidate. This may include specific policies that are beneficial to the voter, or values and principles that the voter shares with the party or candidate. Costs, on the other hand, can be seen as anything a voter might lose by voting for a specific party or candidate. This may include policies that are detrimental to the voter, or disagreement with the values or principles of the party or candidate. Costs can also include the time and energy required to find out about parties and candidates, and to go out and vote. The voter, as homopoliticus in this model, is therefore assumed to act rationally, seeking to maximise his utility by minimising the costs and maximising the benefits of his vote. This is an application of the logic of homo economicus, the rational individual in the economic sphere, to the political sphere. It is important to note that this approach assumes that individuals are capable of making precise cost-benefit calculations and taking rational decisions on the basis of these calculations, an assumption that can be challenged.

The rational choice school is based on several key assumptions, including :

  • Voters know their own preferences: According to this postulate, each voter has a clear and precise understanding of his or her own interests and values. To make informed choices, voters are assumed to seek information and evaluate the different policy options available actively.
  • Voters are able to calculate costs and benefits: This postulate assumes that each voter is able to identify and evaluate the costs and benefits associated with each voting option. It also assumes that voters are capable of making rational calculations to determine which option maximises their utility.
  • Voters are autonomous in their decision-making: According to this postulate, voters' voting decisions are primarily influenced by their own rational calculations, rather than by external influences. Voters are not assumed to be significantly influenced by political party propaganda, social or cultural context, family pressures or personal prejudices.

These assumptions represent an ideal of rational electoral behaviour. However, they are often criticised for being unrealistic. In reality, many voters may lack the time, resources or skills to research information and make complex cost-benefit calculations. Furthermore, it is clear that the social, cultural and family environment can have a significant influence on voting behaviour.

Limitations of Traditional Explanatory Voting Models[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Although these three models have many limitations and imperfections, they form an essential foundation for the study of political behaviour. There is an abundant literature devoted to their criticism, modification and correction. Thus, despite their shortcomings, these models are indispensable in the analysis of electoral behaviour, and constitute the starting point from which we can begin to think more deeply using more recent and more sophisticated models.

What are the shortcomings of these classic models? There are several, and we will concentrate on the main ones.

Weakening of Central Explanatory Factors[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Empirically, the research carried out in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s did not really confirm the significant importance of sociological and psychosociological factors in determining electoral behaviour. The hypotheses put forward by the Columbia School and the Michigan School, which postulated that it was possible to explain an individual's vote accurately on the basis of his or her social characteristics and partisan identification, were not supported by these studies. The explanatory power of these models proved limited. Although they may shed some light, their scope remains modest.

These models have not performed as well as expected and have tended to lose effectiveness over the years and decades. The main reason for this decline in performance lies in the historical decline in the explanatory factors central to the models. For example, the importance of social class and religion in determining electoral behaviour, key factors in the Columbia model, has declined over time. Similarly, the importance of partisan identification, which is central to the Michigan model, has also declined. In other words, the fundamental elements of these models have lost relevance over time, reducing their ability to accurately explain electoral behaviour.

The decline in these explanatory factors for voting can be attributed to significant changes in society, such as the transformation of the social structure. Society has evolved from a predominance of the primary sector to a dominance of the secondary and tertiary sectors. This change in the social fabric has had major political consequences. The tertiarisation of the economy has had a profound impact on electoral behaviour. The primary sector has shrunk, as has the secondary sector, and the historical links between, for example, the working class and certain parties, generally on the left, have weakened. In addition, increased geographical mobility has led to a greater social and cultural mix. This diversification has also helped to weaken the traditional links between certain groups and political parties. As a result, the links that were once predictive of electoral behaviour have become less powerful over time, reducing the accuracy of the Columbia and Michigan models. Overall, there was a decline in the loyalties associated with social class and religion, as well as a decline in identification with specific political parties. This development made it more difficult to predict electoral behaviour based solely on these factors, which had an impact on the effectiveness of the Columbia and Michigan models.

The Evolution of Education and its Impact on Voting[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The second factor that has contributed to the weakening of these major explanatory factors is the development of education. This phenomenon, sometimes referred to as the "education revolution", refers to the considerable increase in the level of education in Western societies. This has led to greater independence of thought and greater autonomy in voting decisions, making voters less captive and less tied to their traditional affiliations.

The expansion of education profoundly transformed Western societies in the second half of the twentieth century. This led to a significant increase in the number of people with access to secondary and higher education. As a result, a larger proportion of the population has acquired skills in critical thinking and independent analysis. This "education revolution" has had a major impact on political and electoral behaviour. In terms of the voting process, it means that voters have become more autonomous in their decision-making. Rather than relying solely on traditional affiliations, such as social class, religion or party identification, they are now more likely to critically examine the proposals of different political parties and make their own decisions. This does not necessarily mean that they will systematically reject the positions of their social class, religious community or preferred political party, but rather that they will not blindly follow them. They are more likely to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of each option and to vote according to what they feel is in their best interests or in the interests of society as a whole.

The rise in the level of education in Western societies has led to a significant change in electoral behaviour. Thanks to their greater capacity for analysis and criticism, voters have been able to free themselves, in part, from the influence of organisations, social groups or political parties on their voting decisions. This has led to a more independent electorate with autonomous choices. However, this increased independence has also led to greater volatility in voting behaviour. In other words, voters are now more likely to change parties from one election to the next. This contrasts with the more stable voting behaviour observed in the past, when voting was more strongly influenced by factors such as social class, religion or party identification. This increased volatility can be seen as a sign of dynamism within the electorate, reflecting an increased ability to assess and react to political party proposals and changing social, economic and political conditions. However, it can also make election results more unpredictable and government majorities more unstable.

For example, developments in education have contributed to the erosion of the influence of traditional sociological and psychosociological factors on voting behaviour. In their place, more complex and nuanced factors, such as individual political convictions, specific concerns and evaluations of the performance of political parties and their candidates, are playing a greater role. This makes voting behaviour more dynamic and less predictable on the basis of socio-demographic factors alone.

Growing influence of the audiovisual media on voting[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The third key factor that has profoundly altered electoral behaviour is the rise of the audiovisual media, first with television and more recently with digital media. This development has radically transformed the nature of election campaigns and voting processes. In this new media environment, voters are less under the direct influence of organisations such as political parties. They are now more exposed and receptive to what is broadcast in the media, whether through coverage of political events, political advertising or news and discussions on social networks. This is giving rise to a new dynamic in which the media play a crucial role in shaping public opinion and directing voting. These changes have made voters more autonomous in their decision-making, but also more sensitive to fluctuations in public opinion as reflected and amplified by the media. These transformations make electoral behaviour more complex to anticipate and analyse, as they introduce new variable and dynamic factors that interact in complex ways with traditional factors such as social class, religion or party identification.

In short, political parties now play a less predominant role in political communication, while the media and political campaigns, with their short-term impact, have gained in importance. Traditional models, such as those of the Columbia School and the Michigan School, emphasised the stability of electoral behaviour, linking voting to long-term factors such as social affiliation or partisan identification. However, with societal changes, we see that short-term factors play an increasingly significant role in electoral behaviour. This does not mean that long-term factors have lost all their importance, but rather that their relative impact has diminished compared to short-term influences. As a result, the electorate has become more volatile and voting preferences can change more rapidly in response to specific events or intensive media campaigns.

Simplified Electorate Design in Classical Models[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Another shortcoming of traditional models to explain voting is their oversimplification of the electorate. Although these models take account of individual differences from a socio-demographic and sometimes psycho-sociological point of view, they consider the electorate to be homogeneous. They do not take into account the idea that individuals can vary greatly in their relationship to politics. This means that they do not take sufficient account of the diversity of political attitudes, levels of interest in politics, levels of political involvement or participation, or patterns of consumption of political information. Individuals can be very politically active, totally indifferent, or anywhere in between. They may also be strongly influenced by certain types of information or sources of information, and less so by others.

There are marked differences between citizens in their relationship to politics, which may be particularly noticeable in terms of their interest in politics and their political competence. There is a wide range of levels of commitment: some citizens are extremely interested in politics, to the point of committing themselves to it and making a career of it, while others are completely disinterested in politics. Similarly, the level of political competence varies considerably. Some citizens have an in-depth knowledge of politics, understand what is at stake, are well-informed and have a good grasp of political issues, while others lack the cognitive skills or motivation to inform themselves, and therefore do not have the knowledge needed to take part in an informed vote. Interest in politics plays a decisive role in the attention paid to politics and influences political participation. Indeed, those who are interested in politics are more likely to participate, while those who are not are more likely to abstain. Motivation and interest in politics therefore condition not only the attention paid to political messages, but also the degree of political participation.

Political skills also play a crucial role in determining people's ability to integrate and understand the messages conveyed in the public arena. Imagine a well-designed information campaign, with clear arguments from both the right and the left, fuelling rich and informative debates. If people do not have the necessary skills to understand, internalise and assimilate this information, these campaigns will not influence their opinion and will not contribute to the formation of their judgement. On the other hand, people with a degree of political competence will be better able to take this information on board. They will be able to weigh up the pros and cons, trying to form an opinion on the basis of the information that is shared in the public arena. This ability to process and understand political information is therefore essential for informed and active political participation.

It is essential to note that interest in politics and political competence, in other words, a motivational factor and a cognitive factor, will condition and play a crucial role in the process of forming people's opinions. It is these two elements - interest and competence - that have become important considerations in the analysis of electoral behaviour. Today, the approach has changed and models of electoral behaviour no longer assume a homogeneous electorate. Instead, we try to take into account the diversity and heterogeneity of the electorate. This is a recognition that each individual has their own unique combination of interest and political competence, which influences their voting behaviour.

Excessive Focus on Individuals in Voting Analysis[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The final shortcoming of classical models, and one that is particularly apparent in the rational choice school, is the excessive emphasis placed on the individual. The rational choice school is an exemplary example of this focus on the individual, since it postulates that the individual carries out his cost-benefit calculation independently of the context and any external influence. The individual is placed at the centre of this process: he gathers information, evaluates which party will bring him the most benefits and which will cost him the most, and on this basis makes his choice. A typical example of this process would be to determine which party is closest to you on a left-right scale and to vote for that party according to your interests, but always independently of the context. It is a model that considers the individual as an isolated and autonomous actor in the process of deciding how to vote, without taking into account the various environmental and social influences that could also play a role in this decision.

The criticism levelled at these traditional models, and particularly at the rational choice school, is based on an excessive focus on voters and their individual characteristics, to the detriment of insufficient consideration of the context in which these individuals form their political opinions. This means that these models do not take sufficient account of the social, economic, cultural and political environment in which voters live and which significantly influences their attitudes and electoral behaviour.

The criticism in question applies mainly to the rational choice school, but also concerns the Columbia and Michigan schools. For the Columbia school, although individuals are supposed to vote according to the characteristics of the social group to which they belong, the group itself is not really taken into account. Instead, it is reflected solely through the individual characteristics of the voter, for example whether he or she is a blue-collar worker, Catholic, etc. The social position of the voter and the influence of collective institutions, such as trade unions for workers, are not sufficiently taken into account in this model. In other words, these models do not take full account of the role of the social and institutional context in which the voter finds himself, and which can significantly influence his voting behaviour.

Even the Columbia model, which is a sociological model that positions the individual within his or her social group, does not take sufficient account of the importance of the role played by the group itself. What is mainly taken into account are the social characteristics of the individual, rather than those of the group to which he belongs. However, individual opinions do not develop in a political vacuum, but rather in a specific institutional and political context. This specific context has the potential to significantly influence the way in which an individual forms his or her opinions. In other words, the social, cultural and institutional framework in which an individual evolves plays a decisive role in shaping his or her political ideas and behaviour.

The two key elements of the context that can be mentioned are the political offer and the electoral campaign.

Political supply: Political supply and demand, two terms often used in political science to understand electoral behaviour.

  • Political supply refers to the different choices available to voters, including political parties, candidates, political programmes, ideologies and political agendas. This offer can vary considerably from one context to another, thus influencing the way in which individuals make their voting decisions. For example, if the political offer does not represent a wide range of political ideologies or does not offer satisfactory solutions to the problems voters are concerned about, this can lead to electoral disengagement, protest through blank or invalid voting, or a shift in the vote towards less traditional parties.
  • Political demand, on the other hand, refers to voters' preferences, values, expectations and needs. These characteristics are influenced by a variety of factors, including socio-demographics (age, gender, level of education, occupation), psychology (attitudes, values, emotions) and context (economic situation, current political issues, etc.).

In this context, political parties and candidates seek to shape their offer to best meet voter demand. Where there is a match between political supply and demand, we generally see higher levels of electoral commitment. On the other hand, when the political offer is out of step with voter demand, this can lead to dissatisfaction, disengagement or electoral volatility. A thorough understanding of these two concepts is therefore essential for analysing and understanding electoral behaviour.

The electoral campaign: Electoral campaigns have taken on considerable importance in shaping electoral opinion. In addition to socio-demographic and ideological factors, the messages and information disseminated during an election campaign can significantly influence voters' voting decisions. These short-term influences can include a variety of factors, such as :

  • Public debates on key political issues.
  • Media coverage of candidates and political parties.
  • Political advertising campaigns.
  • Candidates' speeches and policy positions.
  • Current events and crises during the campaign.
  • Polls and election forecasts.

All these factors can have an impact on how voters perceive candidates and political parties, and therefore influence their voting decisions. In addition, voting volatility, i.e. the propensity of voters to change their political allegiance from one election to the next, has increased in many countries, suggesting that short-term influences, such as election campaigns, can have a significant impact on voting behaviour.

Both are integral parts of the context in which individuals form their opinions and make their voting decisions. Consequently, it is essential to take them into account when analysing electoral behaviour.

Recent developments in electoral research[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Researchers have sought to improve the accuracy of traditional electoral models by incorporating new explanatory elements. These elements attempt to take into account the evolution of modern societies and the new dynamics that influence electoral behaviour. These new factors include :

  • Changing social cleavages: In modern societies, social cleavages are no longer limited to distinctions of class or religion. Other cleavages, such as level of education, ethnic origin, gender, age, sexual orientation, place of residence (urban/rural), etc., have gained in importance.
  • The evolution of political issues: The political issues that attract voters' interest have evolved. Issues such as the environment, immigration, nationalism, minority rights, etc., have gained in importance.
  • The influence of the media and new technologies: The impact of traditional and social media on electoral behaviour has become a major area of research. These media can influence voters' opinions, their perception of candidates and parties, and even their electoral participation.
  • The role of emotions in politics: Researchers have begun to take account of the role of emotions in politics. Feelings such as fear, anger, hope, enthusiasm, etc., can influence people's electoral behaviour.
  • The personalisation of politics: The personality and image of candidates have become important factors in voters' choices. Voters may be more inclined to vote for a candidate on the basis of his or her personality or public image than on the basis of his or her policies or party affiliation.

These new approaches do not supplant traditional models, but complement and enrich them. They recognise that electoral behaviour is complex and multifactorial, and that it is influenced by a multitude of factors that evolve over time and in context.

Taking the Context into Account in Voting Analysis[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The institutional context, in particular the electoral system, plays a crucial role in voting behaviour. The type of electoral system, whether majoritarian, proportional or a mixture of the two, has a significant impact on voters' voting strategies, as well as on the tactics of political parties. In a majoritarian system, where the candidate or party with the most votes wins all the seats in a constituency, voters may have to vote strategically to avoid 'wasting' their vote. They may decide to vote for a candidate or party that is more likely to win, even if it is not their first choice. Similarly, political parties can choose to concentrate on certain constituencies where they believe they have a better chance of winning seats. On the other hand, in a proportional system, where seats are allocated according to the percentage of votes received by each party, voters have more freedom to vote according to their true preferences, because they know that their vote will contribute to winning a seat, even for a small party. Similarly, political parties can afford to field candidates in a variety of constituencies, as each vote counts towards the allocation of seats. Thus, the institutional context is an essential factor to consider when analysing electoral behaviour, as it shapes the incentives and strategies of voters and political parties.

The polarisation of the political system is another contextual element that influences voting behaviour. In a highly polarised system, where political parties propose markedly different policies and take opposing positions on various issues, voters have a wider range of choices. This diversity can stimulate political engagement and make it easier for voters to make decisions, as clear distinctions between parties can make it more obvious who to vote for. Conversely, in a consensual political system where there are few ideological or political differences between parties, voters may find it more difficult to distinguish between parties and decide who to vote for. This lack of differentiation can reduce political engagement and increase voter uncertainty or indecision. Polarisation can also affect the dynamics of election campaigns. In a polarised environment, parties may run more confrontational and issue-based campaigns, which in turn may influence how voters perceive parties and make their choices. In short, the degree of polarisation in a political system can have significant implications for electoral behaviour.

The fragmentation of the party system is another crucial contextual aspect that can influence voting behaviour. Fragmentation refers to the number of significant political parties in a political system. In a highly fragmented party system, where there are many political parties, all of which have a reasonable chance of winning seats or exerting influence, voters have a greater variety of choices. This can lead to a more nuanced representation of voters' political views and preferences. However, it can also make the political landscape more complex and harder for voters to navigate. Conversely, in a less fragmented party system, typically characterised by one or two dominant parties, voter choice is more limited. While this can make electoral choice simpler, it can also lead to less complete political representation or dissatisfaction among voters who feel inadequately represented by the options available. Fragmentation of the party system can also influence the dynamics of the election campaign and party strategy. For example, in a highly fragmented system, parties may be more inclined to form alliances or coalitions and target specific segments of the electorate.

The election campaign and media coverage are two crucial factors influencing voting behaviour. They are particularly relevant in modern models of electoral research. The election campaign itself is a time when parties and candidates present their positions on various issues, try to convince voters of their competence and the relevance of their proposals, and often criticise their opponents. The election campaign is therefore a time of potentially strong influence on voters' opinions, both in terms of their assessment of candidates and parties and their sense of commitment to the political process. The media play an important role in conveying information about the campaign to voters. They are responsible for covering candidate statements, political debates, polls, controversies and campaign incidents. The way in which the media cover the campaign can influence voters' perceptions of the relevance, credibility and attractiveness of different candidates and parties. In addition, the media can also influence voters' perceptions of important campaign issues. For example, if the media focus heavily on certain issues, such as the economy or immigration, voters may perceive these issues as more important than others, which can influence their voting behaviour. Overall, the election campaign and media coverage are two key contextual factors that can have a significant influence on voters' opinion formation and voting behaviour.

Recognition of the heterogeneity of the electorate[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Modern models of electoral research take account of the heterogeneity of the electorate, which represents a significant departure from traditional models that assumed the relative homogeneity of voters. Today, it is widely recognised that the electorate is diverse and varied, with very different levels of interest and political competence among individuals.

Interest in politics is a key factor that can influence an individual's voting behaviour. Voters with a strong interest in politics are likely to be more engaged in the political process, to follow election campaigns closely, to inform themselves about candidates and parties, and to participate actively in voting. On the other hand, those with little interest in politics may be less engaged and less likely to vote. Political competence is another important factor. Voters with a good knowledge of politics and a clear understanding of the issues are better able to process complex political information and evaluate candidates and parties on the basis of well-informed criteria. Those who are less politically literate may find it more difficult to understand and evaluate political information, which may affect their voting behaviour.

Political psychology is an interdisciplinary field of study that examines how individual psychological processes, as well as personality traits, influence politics at an individual and collective level. In particular, it studies how individuals form their political opinions, how they make political decisions, and how their values, attitudes and personality traits influence their political behaviour. It examines a wide range of topics, from political attitudes and perceptions to the formation of political identities and the effects of emotions on political behaviour. For example, political psychology can study how fears or security concerns can influence attitudes towards immigration policies, or how an individual's core values, such as equality or freedom, can shape their political alignment.

Political psychology is also interested in the influence of cognitive biases on political decision-making. For example, it can examine how biases such as the confirmation effect (the tendency to seek out and interpret information that confirms our existing beliefs) can influence political opinions. By focusing on the underlying psychological mechanisms, political psychology offers a unique perspective on politics and voting behaviour, complementing more traditional approaches in political science that focus on factors such as party affiliations, ideologies or socio-demographic factors.

The idea that issue voting has become more important in recent decades is increasingly accepted in the field of political science. Issue voting refers to voting behaviour based on specific issues or problems ("issues") that voters consider important. Rather than basing their vote solely on overall political ideologies or party affiliations, many voters are now more likely to vote on the basis of particular positions on specific issues, such as the economy, the environment, public health, immigration, and so on. Voters may also base their vote on their perception of the competence of a party or candidate to manage these issues. For example, a voter may decide to vote for a certain party because they perceive it to be the most competent to manage an economic crisis or to implement effective environmental policies. This shift towards more issue-based voting can be attributed to a number of factors. It may be due to increased access to information, which allows voters to be more informed and engaged on specific issues. It may also be linked to the erosion of traditional party loyalties, the increasing individualisation of politics and polarisation around specific issues. Nevertheless, even though issue voting has become more common, political ideologies and party affiliations continue to play a significant role in voting behaviour.

The situation in Switzerland is a good illustration of how the issue vote can play a major role in elections. The Swiss People's Party (SVP), which is known for its tough stance on immigration, has managed to attract a large number of voters who see immigration as a major issue. The UDC has succeeded in building a reputation as a party that actively addresses the issue of immigration, proposing restrictive policies and highlighting the issue in its election campaigns. For many voters, the SVP is seen as the most competent party to deal with the issue of immigration, which partly explains its electoral success. This shows that, in certain contexts, specific issues can become central to the political debate and strongly influence voter behaviour. Parties that are able to position themselves effectively on these issues and convince voters of their competence can therefore enjoy a significant advantage at the ballot box.

Methodological innovations in the study of voting behaviour[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Multilevel explanatory models, also known as hierarchical models, represent a major methodological advance in the study of electoral behaviour. These models take into account the different scales of influence on the behaviour of individuals, from the local context to the national context, via the individual context. For example, a multilevel model could analyse the effect of individual characteristics such as age, gender, education and ethnicity on voting behaviour, while also taking into account the role of the local and national socio-economic context, the characteristics of the party system and the political offer. In this way, multilevel models can help us understand how influences at different levels interact to shape voting behaviour. These models offer considerable flexibility and allow complex data to be analysed in a more accurate and nuanced way. They have been used to study a range of political phenomena, including voting behaviour, political participation, political attitudes and many others. Thus, the use of hierarchical or explanatory multilevel models represents a significant innovation in voting behaviour research, allowing for a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the factors that influence voting.

Statistical models are generally referred to as multilevel or hierarchical models. They are designed to take account of the inherent complexity of social data, which often comprises nested or hierarchical structures.

In the context of electoral behaviour research, these models can be used to examine simultaneously the effect of individual characteristics (such as age, gender, education, political beliefs, etc.) and the effect of context (for example, the electoral system, the political offer, the electoral campaign, etc.) on an individual's vote choice. These models can also be used to study the interactions between individual and contextual factors. For example, they can be used to examine whether the effect of education on the choice of vote varies according to the political context in which an individual finds himself. By simultaneously taking into account individual and contextual factors, as well as their interactions, multilevel models offer a richer and more complete perspective on the formation of electoral choice. They can help reveal complex dynamics that might be missed by analyses that consider individual and contextual factors separately.

For example, the researchers attempt to illustrate that the impact of Catholic identity on electoral behaviour can vary according to the voter's religious environment. In other words, the influence of Catholic identity on voting could be more or less significant depending on whether the individual lives in a predominantly Catholic canton or in a canton with religious diversity. The underlying idea is therefore to integrate both individual factors, such as religious identity, and contextual factors, such as the religious composition of the canton, into the analysis of voting behaviour.

This example is a good illustration of how multilevel models can help reveal complex dynamics in electoral behaviour. In this case, they allow us to see how the impact of religious affiliation on voting choice can vary according to the religious context of the place where the individual lives. This means that the effect of religious affiliation on voting behaviour may be different in a context where most people share the same religion (a Catholic canton, for example) compared with a context where people have different religions (a religiously mixed canton). This may be due to a number of factors. For example, in a predominantly Catholic canton, Catholic individuals may feel more comfortable expressing their religious values in their vote. On the other hand, in a religiously mixed canton, Catholic individuals may be more likely to vote on the basis of other considerations, such as political ideology or economic issues. This is an excellent example of how multilevel models can help us understand the interactions between individual and contextual factors in shaping voting behaviour.

Case Studies: Analysis of Voting Behaviour[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Case Study 1: Explaining the SVP vote[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

This study analyses the composition of the SVP electorate and how this composition has changed over time.

Source: Oesch et Rennwald 2010

The graph on the left, which shows the proportion of voters by class who voted for the Socialist Party in 2007 (in percentage terms), illustrates the composition of the Socialist Party electorate following the 2007 federal elections. These results are based on an opinion survey carried out after the elections. As mentioned earlier, SELECT surveys, which have been conducted after every federal election since 1995, provide a valuable set of data on voter behaviour at national level in Switzerland.

In 2007, the Socialist Party won around 20% of the vote, which is also its average score. By looking at the different socio-professional categories, we can see the difference between this average score and the proportion of votes obtained in each category. This makes it possible to identify which segments of the population are more likely to vote for the Socialist Party, and which segments are less likely to do so.

Referring to the last line, we can see that one socio-professional category in particular voted massively for the SP: socio-cultural specialists. While the SP's average score was 20%, it reached 34% among this category, an increase of fourteen percentage points. Socio-cultural specialists, sometimes referred to as the "new middle class", include employees working in the health, social, education, culture and media sectors. This is a segment of the upper middle class that has grown significantly in number. We could refer to them somewhat trivially as "bobo", for "bohemian bourgeois". These individuals have relatively substantial resources, but adhere to the redistributive values of the Left. While the rational choice model would predispose them to vote right because of their advantageous socio-economic situation, they tend to support left-wing programmes out of societal solidarity and adherence to other left-wing values such as international openness and solidarity.

All other socio-professional categories appear to be below the average Socialist Party score, including the groups referred to here as "production workers", "service workers" and "office workers". The latter would be what used to be referred to as blue-collar workers. Production workers are typically people working in industry, performing repetitive tasks and having little autonomy in their work. These individuals tend to vote for the Socialist Party less frequently than the average.

The trend observed indicates that production workers, often engaged in industrial roles requiring repetitive tasks and offering little autonomy, have a lower propensity to vote for the Socialist Party. Several factors may explain this phenomenon.

Firstly, the industrial sector has undergone considerable change in recent decades, marked by increasing automation and the relocation of production to low-labour-cost regions. These changes have often led to increased job insecurity and a sense of abandonment among these workers, who may feel less represented by a party traditionally associated with the defence of workers' rights.

Moreover, the nature of the working class has also changed. Today it includes a much wider range of occupations and skill levels than in the past. This diverse group may have more diverse political preferences and may not feel uniformly attracted to the Socialist Party. Secondly, the emergence of social issues such as immigration and national identity has also helped to change the political landscape. In some cases, these issues have eclipsed traditional economic problems on the political agenda, leading some production workers to turn to right-wing or populist parties that promise to solve these problems. Finally, the changing political discourse and priorities of the Socialist Party may also have played a role. As noted above, the Socialist Party appears to have succeeded in attracting a significant proportion of 'socio-cultural specialists', a group that often has higher levels of education and more liberal values. As a result, the Socialist Party may have geared some of its rhetoric and programme to appeal to this group, possibly to the detriment of its traditional appeal to production workers.

In the 2007 elections, the UDC (Union Démocratique du Centre) obtained 28% of the vote, a remarkable result that nevertheless varies greatly according to socio-professional category. In this context, it could be argued that the Columbia model, which focuses on sociological variables such as social class and group membership to explain electoral behaviour, retains some relevance. Indeed, the SVP's score probably reflects the influence of socio-professional factors on voting behaviour. This party has succeeded in appealing to a variety of social groups, reflecting a number of different concerns - from immigration to the economy to national sovereignty. The significant variations in the SVP's electoral support between different socio-professional categories underline the importance of people's social position in shaping their political preferences. That said, the strength of the SVP in 2007 does not mean that the Columbia model provides an exhaustive or definitive explanation of electoral behaviour. Other factors, such as short-term political concerns, perceptions of the issues and candidates, and the effect of the election campaign, may also play an important role. Moreover, individual ideas and values may also interact with social class to influence electoral choices. While the Columbia model can still provide valuable insights into voting for the SVP in 2007, it is necessary to consider a wider range of factors to fully understand voting behaviour.

The SVP's main support in the 2007 elections came from the 'small self-employed', comprising farmers, shopkeepers, craftsmen and other self-employed people who do not run large businesses. Sometimes referred to as the "old middle class", these individuals overwhelmingly supported the SVP. In fact, almost half (44%) of the small self-employed voted for the SVP, a significantly higher percentage than the party's overall score of 28%. It seems that small independents identified with SVP positions on issues such as national sovereignty, immigration, and perhaps also economic autonomy. Their support highlights how an individual's socio-economic position and membership of a specific occupational category can influence their political preferences. However, it is essential to note that these individuals constitute one of the SVP's two major strongholds, suggesting that support for the party is distributed in a diverse and complex way across Swiss society.

The SVP also finds strong support among production and service workers. Despite the SVP's positioning as a right-wing party on the political spectrum, which is not generally associated with defending the interests of workers, it managed to win around 40% of the vote from this category of workers in 2007, exceeding its overall score of 28%. One might ask why such a high proportion of workers chose to vote for the SVP, while some trade unionists might argue that the SVP does not sufficiently protect workers. For example, it could be argued that the SVP does not defend workers against competition from foreign labour, except indirectly by advocating closed-border policies. However, the SVP's success with workers may not be primarily linked to its economic programme. Instead, it seems more plausible that it is its cultural agenda that attracts these voters. The SVP advocates closing borders from a cultural perspective, defending traditions and advocating a certain international closure. This position, which is mainly motivated by cultural, identity and historical considerations rather than economic ones, could explain the SVP's popularity among production and service workers.

From a two-dimensional perspective of political space, we can see that the SVP's success is largely attributable to its position on the tradition-openness axis rather than its position on the economic axis. On this axis, the SVP does not really differ from the Liberal-Radical Party (PLR). This is an illustration of the win-lose divide. From this perspective, the UDC and PLR can be seen as representing the 'winners' in the current economic system, defending liberal and pro-market policies. However, the SVP distinguishes itself on the tradition-openness axis by taking more closed and traditional positions. This means that many voters may be attracted to the SVP not because of its economic positions, which are similar to those of the FDP, but rather because of its positions on cultural and identity issues. This may explain why the SVP has been able to attract a high proportion of votes from groups such as production and service workers, who may feel more threatened by cultural and societal openness.

To sum up, it could be said that those who feel like 'winners' from international openness and globalisation are often the socio-cultural specialists, while the perceived 'losers' are those who fear this openness. The latter fear not only increased economic competition, but also changes in culture and identity. These groups include the small self-employed, as well as production and service workers. At the same time, the SVP scored significantly lower among ethnic and socio-cultural specialists. In a way, this is the opposite effect of what we observe for the Socialist Party. These groups are often more internationally minded and more inclined to embrace cultural diversity, which is reflected in their tendency to vote for more left-wing parties such as the Socialist Party rather than more right-wing parties such as the SVP.

The class divide still plays a crucial role in voting behaviour, but its nature has changed over time. Traditionally, this divide was seen as workers versus employers, reflecting Marx's ideas of the conflict between labour and capital. For a long period in European history, we saw a clear divergence in voting between these two groups, with workers generally leaning towards left-wing parties and employers tending to support right-wing parties. However, this traditional divide has changed over time and the dynamics of class conflict have become more complex. It is no longer just an opposition between labour and capital, but rather a multitude of social, economic and cultural cleavages which interact in complex ways. For example, as we mentioned earlier, groups such as the small self-employed and production and service workers tend to support the right-wing SVP, not necessarily because of their economic positions, but because of their cultural and identity concerns. This shows that, although the class divide remains an important factor, it needs to be analysed in conjunction with other socio-political dimensions to fully understand contemporary electoral behaviour.

In many countries, including Switzerland, we have seen a shift in the way class divisions manifest themselves in electoral behaviour. This phenomenon is often described as a misalignment and realignment of voters in relation to political parties. In concrete terms, we have seen a trend where voters from working-class backgrounds, who were historically aligned with left-wing parties, have begun to move towards populist right-wing parties. This movement has been observed not only in Switzerland, but also in other countries such as France, Austria, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries. There are several possible explanations for this phenomenon. Some suggest that these voters are increasingly concerned about issues of cultural identity and national sovereignty, themes often highlighted by right-wing populist parties. Others argue that these voters feel let down by traditional left-wing parties, which tend to focus more on social and economic issues. Whatever the exact reason, it is clear that the political landscape is changing and that the traditional class divide can no longer explain electoral behaviour on its own. Political scientists must therefore take these new dynamics into account when analysing current electoral trends.

In all these countries, it can be observed that a shift took place during the 1980s and 1990s, with a significant proportion of workers who traditionally voted for the left now shifting their vote towards the populist right. It is important to point out that this phenomenon does not concern all workers, but a significant proportion of them. In parallel with this movement, we have seen a strengthening of the socio-cultural specialists, or the new middle class, as a bastion of the left-wing vote. This phenomenon is characterised by individuals with a relatively well-off socio-economic situation, who despite their position, tend to support redistributive ideals and values generally associated with the left, such as international openness and solidarity. This transformation of the electoral landscape is a powerful finding that is as true in Switzerland as it is in other countries. It has a profound impact on politics in these countries, and requires a detailed understanding if current electoral trends are to be properly interpreted.

Source: Oesch et Rennwald 2010

The graph shows how the vote for the UDC (Union Démocratique du Centre) among the working classes evolved between 1995 and 2007. In 1995, between 15% and 20% of service, production and office workers voted SVP. However, over a period of around a decade, we have seen a significant increase in this figure, reaching percentages of 35% to 40% of the working-class vote. It is worth noting that the SVP has seen an increase in support across all segments of the electorate over the last twenty years. However, the most marked increase has been among the working-class electorate. This illustrates the reformulation of the class divide that we discussed earlier, showing a major shift in the voting patterns of these groups over time.

The class divide remains relevant to voting behaviour, but its nature has changed profoundly. It has been restructured by movements of misalignment and realignment between different social classes and political parties. The term 'misalignment' refers, for example, to the phenomenon of workers gradually distancing themselves from the Socialist Party or the left in general, while 'realignment' refers to their growing attraction to parties such as the SVP. This process of shifting party allegiances along class lines has led to a change in the nature of the class divide. Today, we speak of a 'new class divide', which pits the 'winners' of globalisation, such as senior executives and the new middle class, against those who are perceived - or perceive themselves - as the 'losers' of globalisation. The latter include the working classes and the old middle class, made up of small self-employed people such as craftsmen, farmers and shopkeepers.

The table shows how voting for the SVP has evolved among different categories of middle class. It shows three segments of the working classes: office workers (shown in grey), service workers (dotted line) and production workers (black). In all three categories, there was a significant increase in the percentage of people who voted SVP. Although the SVP gained ground in all strata of the population, this is particularly true for the working classes.

This graph is a simple arrangement of voters on a two-dimensional space.

Source: Oesch et Rennwald 2010b: 276

The horizontal axis reflects a socio-economic dimension which can be interpreted as being in favour of 'more state' or 'more market'. This dimension is derived from two main questions asked in opinion polls.

  • The first question concerns social spending: are respondents in favour of an increase or decrease in social spending by the Confederation? This can help determine whether a person is more socially inclined (in favour of more government) or more liberally inclined (in favour of more market).
  • The second question relates to the taxation of high incomes: are respondents for or against an increase in taxation on high incomes? This question measures attitudes towards the redistribution of wealth, which is another way of assessing whether a person is more inclined towards state or market policies.

By combining the answers to these two questions, we can get a rough idea of a person's position on the socio-economic axis. This socio-economic dimension classifies individuals according to their preferences for the redistribution of wealth by the state. If a person is 'in favour of spending' and 'in favour of raising taxes', i.e. supports increased social spending and higher taxation of high incomes, this can be interpreted as left-wing values. These people generally support greater redistribution of wealth by the state, which can mean more public services, more generous social programmes and greater income equality. Conversely, if a person is 'against spending' and 'against raising taxes', i.e. is against increased social spending and higher taxation of high earners, this can be interpreted as right-wing values. These people tend to support less state intervention in the economy, preferring to let the market operate freely. They generally support lower taxes and less redistribution of wealth by the state. This socio-economic dimension is therefore a useful way of understanding where people stand on the political spectrum when it comes to economic issues.

The vertical axis is more related to the cultural or identity dimension of politics, and this helps us to understand where people fall on the political spectrum when it comes to issues of nationality, national identity and immigration. If someone is "in favour of Switzerland joining the European Union" and "in favour of a Switzerland that gives equal opportunities to Swiss and foreigners", we can say that this person is higher up the axis, showing greater openness to foreign influence and participation. These individuals are generally more progressive on issues of identity and immigration, and may be more inclined to support policies of inclusion and diversity. Conversely, if a person is "in favour of a Switzerland that goes it alone" and "in favour of a Switzerland that favours the Swiss over foreigners", they can be said to be further down the axis, showing a more protectionist and nationalist stance. These individuals are generally more conservative on issues of identity and immigration, and may be more inclined to support policies that favour national citizens and limit immigration. These two axes - socio-economic and cultural/identitarian - can combine in different ways to form a wide range of policy positions. For example, someone could be economically conservative (favouring less redistribution) while being culturally progressive (favouring the inclusion of foreigners), or vice versa.

By grouping these sub-groups by profession and political party, we can illustrate where these groups stand on the socio-economic axis (more state or more market) and the cultural/identitarian axis (international openness or national closure). When calculating the average position of each group, it is important to bear in mind that this is an average. This means that it represents a 'central' position around which individual responses vary. This explains why, despite significant differences in political attitudes within each group, the averages may appear relatively close to the centre of the graph. By analysing these averages, we can get a general idea of the dominant political attitudes within each sub-group of voters. However, it is also important to take into account the diversity of opinions within each group. For example, not all managers are economically conservative, and not all socio-cultural specialists are necessarily progressive on issues of identity and immigration.

Using the average position to represent the political orientation of a group gives an overall view, but it can also mask a diversity of opinions within the same group. This may explain why, despite differences in individual opinions, these averages can sometimes lie close to the centre of the graph. For example, if we look at socio-cultural specialists who vote for the Socialist Party (SP) or the Union démocratique du centre (UDC), we can see that, despite their common professional affiliation, their average positions on these socio-economic and cultural/identity axes differ depending on which party they vote for. As for managers, some may be on the right, others on the left, and some may be more or less open or closed on the cultural/identity axis. Taking into account the average of their positions places them near the centre of the graph, reflecting a diversity of political opinions within this group. This kind of analysis highlights not only the political divergences between different occupational classes, but also the divergences within those classes. This is an important reminder that, although certain general trends can be observed, political attitudes are diverse and varied.

The Socialist Party (SP) appears to have a more ideologically diverse electoral base than the Swiss People's Party (SVP). This may suggest that the SP brings together a wider range of views on the economic scale (from redistribution to market preference) and on the scale of openness versus tradition. In contrast, the SVP seems to bring together voters with more similar values, mainly focused on defending traditions and a slight inclination towards right-wing economic policies. This may indicate that the SVP has a more homogeneous voter base that shares a common set of values. The difference between production workers who voted SVP and those who voted SP is also very interesting. It clearly demonstrates how differences in perception and values can divide the same socio-professional group. It also shows that political preferences are not necessarily determined by occupational class alone, but can also be influenced by other factors, such as personal beliefs, cultural identity and worldview.

There is a common dilemma facing many political parties, particularly those on the traditional left such as the Socialist Party in Switzerland. These parties have historically supported working people and promoted economic redistribution and social equity. However, as economies and societies have evolved, they have also gained the support of more educated and liberal socio-cultural groups, who have different political preferences, particularly on the issues of immigration and international openness. This is therefore a delicate situation for the SP, as it has to strike a balance between these two groups of voters. If it turns too much towards one or the other, it risks losing the support of the other group. This is an important issue for the SP and other left-wing parties around the world, as they navigate this complex political environment. This dilemma is also linked to wider trends in many Western countries, where political preferences are less and less defined by economic class and more and more influenced by cultural and identity issues, such as openness to immigration and globalisation. This has led to a political realignment in which some workers have turned to populist right-wing parties, while more educated groups have supported left-wing parties.

This tension between different factions of the electorate is a major challenge for the Socialist Party and other traditional left-wing parties around the world. If they take more liberal positions on issues such as immigration and European integration, they risk losing the support of workers and other groups who are more sceptical about these issues. On the other hand, if they adopt a tougher stance on these issues, they risk alienating the more educated and liberal voters who support these policies. The challenge for these parties is therefore to strike a balance between these different preferences. This may involve developing a message that appeals to both workers and more liberal voters, or finding ways to address the concerns of these groups on specific issues without alienating the other group. It's a difficult task, and there are no easy solutions. This dilemma is partly the result of wider changes in politics and society. Whereas economic class was once the main determinant of electoral behaviour, cultural and identity issues now play a much greater role. These trends, combined with globalisation and other economic changes, have made the political landscape more complex and created new challenges for traditional parties.

The UDC (Union Démocratique du Centre) has succeeded in building a relatively homogeneous voter base around themes such as sovereignty, immigration and tradition. This is not an easy task, as parties can find themselves caught between different factions of their electoral base who have divergent views on these issues. The SVP has managed to maintain a relatively coherent voter base by focusing on issues that transcend traditional class divisions. For example, the issues of sovereignty, immigration and tradition are likely to be important to many voters, whether working or middle class. This suggests that the Swiss People's Party (SVP) has been able to attract a diverse voter base by focusing on issues that cut across traditional class or occupational lines. It is an important reminder that political affiliations are not only defined by economic issues, but can also be shaped by questions of national identity, sovereignty and migration policy. These issues can be particularly important in the context of globalisation and demographic change. In Switzerland, the SVP has been able to exploit these concerns to win the support of various groups of voters. Its insistence on independence, sovereignty, neutrality and a stricter migration policy seems to have struck a chord with many working and middle-class voters.

As we can see, on the horizontal dimension, the Socialist Party doesn't have too many problems because the whole of its electorate is relatively homogeneous on this dimension, they are all aligned on -1 and -1.5 being all grouped almost on a vertical which means that on the questions of redistribution, the Socialist Party electorate is homogeneous. Workers because they are in favour of a redistributive policy that serves their interests, and socio-cultural specialists because they are prepared to make an effort to show solidarity with the less privileged classes.

This highlights an important trend: within the Swiss Socialist Party (SP), there is strong cohesion on economic issues, particularly on redistribution. Working-class people are generally in favour of greater redistribution, because they can benefit directly from it. On the other hand, socio-cultural specialists, although generally better off, are also in favour of greater redistribution. This may be due to a variety of factors, including greater sensitivity to issues of social equity, a commitment to solidarity and a willingness to invest in quality public services. However, the SP faces a greater challenge on the axis of openness and closure, where there is a greater divergence of views between different segments of its electorate. This divergence could pose challenges for the SP in terms of maintaining the cohesion of the party base and formulating a clear and unified political message. Although this graph shows some cohesion within the SP on redistribution issues, this does not necessarily mean that all SP voters agree on the details of how redistribution should be implemented. For example, there may be differences of opinion on issues such as the appropriate level of taxation, the best way to deliver social services or the role of government in the economy.

Despite changes in social structure and economic transformation, social class remains an important factor in understanding electoral behaviour. However, the nature of this class divide has changed. In the past, the class divide could be described quite simply in terms of workers versus owners, or manual workers versus the middle and upper classes. However, economic and social transformations have made the class divide much more complex. For example, divisions can now be observed between workers in different industries, between the employed and the self-employed, and between those who benefit from globalisation and those who feel threatened by it. At the same time, it is important to note that the class divide cannot explain all aspects of electoral behaviour. Other factors, such as cultural values, attitudes towards immigration or the European Union, or views on gender and diversity issues, can also play an important role. In addition, electoral behaviour can be influenced by more contingent factors, such as the political issues of the day, the popularity of party leaders or political scandals.

The political landscape has changed significantly in recent years, with the emergence of "socio-cultural specialists" as a key support group for the left. This is partly due to the values and concerns specific to this group. Socio-cultural specialists, who include professions such as teachers, social workers, health professionals, journalists and artists, are generally well educated and attach great importance to values such as equality, diversity, social justice and environmental sustainability. As a result, they are often in tune with the priorities and values of the left. At the same time, this group may also feel threatened by some of the current economic trends, such as the casualisation of work, wage stagnation, rising living costs, particularly housing, and growing inequality. These concerns may also make them more receptive to messages from the left on issues such as social protection, wealth redistribution and market regulation.

The strengthening of the divide between the supposed winners and losers of globalisation has led to a significant transformation of the political landscape. The working classes and former middle classes, such as small entrepreneurs, craftsmen, shopkeepers and farmers, who may feel threatened or left behind by globalisation and economic change, have turned to parties like the SVP in Switzerland. These parties tend to advocate a more 'national' stance, defending traditions and a certain form of authoritarianism. This is a trend that can be observed not only in Switzerland, but also in other countries, where populist right-wing parties have succeeded in capturing a section of the electorate that feels threatened by economic and social change. These parties tend to focus on issues such as immigration, national sovereignty and the rejection of certain forms of international cooperation. That said, it is important to note that not all members of these groups necessarily share these views. As with any social category, there is a diversity of opinions and priorities within the working classes and the former middle class. At the same time, the 'open-tradition' dimension of the political divide has become increasingly important, reflecting differences of opinion not only on economic issues, but also on questions of cultural and social values. This has added another layer of complexity to contemporary politics.

Case Study 2: Analysing the success of the SVP[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Issue voting is an approach to the analysis of electoral behaviour that focuses on how voters react to specific issues or questions, rather than on their membership of particular socio-economic groups. In the case of voting for the SVP or similar parties, issues may include questions such as immigration, national sovereignty, security, the defence of traditions, or opposition to European integration. These issues may have particular resonance with voters who feel threatened or left behind by economic and social change, regardless of their specific socio-economic position. This approach recognises that voters are able to make their own assessments of political issues and vote accordingly. It also suggests that voting behaviour can be influenced by political campaigns and media messages that emphasise certain issues over others.

Issue voting is based on the idea that voters make choices based on specific issues that are important to them, rather than on long-term loyalty to a particular political party or membership of a particular social class. The issues can vary significantly from one election to the next and can also vary according to the local, national or international context. They may include economic issues, such as taxation or public spending, social issues, such as immigration or minority rights, or environmental issues, such as climate change.

This approach seeks to understand which issues are most important to voters, how they position themselves in relation to these issues, and how these positions influence their vote. For example, a voter who considers immigration to be the most important issue facing his or her country is more likely to vote for a party that promises to restrict immigration. Researchers using this approach can use opinion surveys to gather information about voters' attitudes to various issues. They can then use this information to build models that predict electoral behaviour based on voters' positions on these issues. It is an approach that recognises that voting behaviour is dynamic and can change in response to current issues. It also recognises that voters are not simply passive recipients of political messages, but are capable of making their own assessments of the issues and taking decisions based on those assessments.

Voters can be influenced by immediate and current issues or problems that affect society. These issues can be very diverse and include economic issues (such as unemployment or inflation), social issues (such as minority rights or gender equality), political issues (such as corruption or government transparency), or environmental issues (such as climate change or pollution). It is important to note that the issues that are relevant in a specific election can vary considerably depending on the local, national and international context. For example, climate change may be a major issue in a country that is heavily affected by the effects of climate change, but not in another country where the problem is less urgent or visible. In addition, the issues may also vary according to the specific electorate. For example, young voters may be more concerned about education and employment issues, while older voters may be more concerned about retirement and healthcare issues. Thus, issue voting implies a more dynamic and flexible approach to politics, which recognises that voters' attitudes and concerns may change in response to changing conditions in society and the world.

Election campaigns are often crucial moments for highlighting particular issues. Political parties and candidates often try to shape the public debate by focusing on specific issues that they believe are strengths for them or weaknesses for their opponents. By focusing on certain issues, they can succeed in changing the public discourse and directing voters' attention to those issues. This strategy can be particularly effective if voters perceive that the party or candidate has a strong, credible and attractive position on the issue in question. This is why political agenda-setting and strategic communication are essential elements of any successful election campaign. However, it should be noted that voters are not simply passive recipients of these messages. They actively evaluate and interpret this information in the light of their own values, experiences and priorities, which can also influence their voting behaviour.

Issue voting highlights a dynamic aspect of voting behaviour. Rather than focusing solely on traditional party affiliations or class identities, this approach seeks to understand how voters react to specific issues and current political challenges. People's political preferences can change depending on the importance they attach to different issues at different times. For example, a person may generally vote for a particular party because of their beliefs on economic issues, but may choose to vote for another party in a specific election if they think that other party has a better approach on an issue that is particularly important to them at that time, such as the environment or public health. This may also explain why voters may sometimes appear to vote against their apparent economic interests if other issues or questions are more important to them. Similarly, voters may change their partisan preferences in response to major political events or crises. This perspective therefore offers a more flexible and responsive view of electoral behaviour, taking into account short-term influences as well as long-term partisan loyalties.

Issue-based voting[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

There are two main types of explanation linked to the issues at stake.

The first explanation is derived directly from a rational choice model, with the voter voting rationally, making a cost-benefit calculation. The idea is that voters will vote for the party that is closest to them in terms of the issues at stake. The parties that have the most similar preferences to voters are the ones that voters will vote for. In this model, voters are seen as political consumers who make voting choices based on an assessment of costs and benefits. This assumes that voters are well informed, that they understand their own interests and that they are able to correctly evaluate the policies proposed by the different parties. They are expected to choose the party or candidate whose positions are closest to their own preferences or convictions. For example, a voter who feels that protecting the environment is the most important issue for him or her will seek to vote for the party or candidate that proposes the strongest or most effective environmental policies.

If, for example, a person is in favour of limiting immigration, they are likely to vote for a party that supports restrictive immigration policies. To model this situation, scales can be used to assess the positions of individuals and political parties on various issues. Once these positions have been established, it is then possible to calculate a 'distance' between the voter and each party based on their respective positions on the issues. This distance can then be used to estimate the probability that a voter will vote for a certain party, with the probability generally being higher for parties that are closer to the voter on the scale of issues.

In this model, political positions are represented in a multidimensional space, where each dimension represents a political issue (for example, immigration, the economy, the environment, etc.). Voters and political parties are placed in this space according to their positions on these issues. It is then generally assumed that voters will vote for the party closest to them in this space, i.e. the party whose positions on the various issues are closest to their own positions. This makes it possible to obtain quantitative predictions about electoral behaviour. For example, if a voter is at a certain distance from a party on the immigration scale, we can calculate the probability that he or she will vote for that party on the basis of that distance.

The proximity model is a major concept in electoral choice theory. It postulates that an individual's electoral behaviour is largely influenced by the proximity between his or her own political views and those of a party or candidate on the issues that are important to that voter. In other words, according to the proximity model, a voter is more likely to vote for the party or candidate whose political positions are closest to his or her own, on the issues he or she considers important. This 'distance' between the voter and the party can be measured on various issues or political dimensions, such as the economy, the environment, immigration, etc. Thus, the 'closer' a party is to the voter's personal views on issues that are important to them, the higher the probability that the voter will vote for that party, according to the proximity model.

The second hypothesis, which is closely linked to the first, is that voters tend to vote for the party that is perceived as being the most competent or the most committed on the issue that they consider to be the most important. This is known as issue-based voting. According to this theory, it is not necessarily the positions of voters and parties on different issues that are decisive, but rather the perception of which issue is currently the most important in the country, and which party is considered to be the most capable of managing that issue. This means that it is not so much the position of voters and parties on different issues that counts, but rather the identification of the most crucial issue at a given moment in the country. It is also a question of knowing which party is associated with this issue, which party has acquired a reputation over the years as an active and competent player on this issue, capable of managing it and finding solutions. If this issue becomes particularly salient among the population, the party in question will be able to draw electoral advantage from it.

This concept is known as "issue ownership". Each party tries to develop its reputation and skills around specific issues. For example, for the Greens, it is the development of their reputation for competence on environmental issues. For the Socialists, the aim is to highlight their expertise in social policy and redistribution. For the PLR, the aim is to strengthen their expertise in economic policy. As for the UDC, their aim is to develop competence in immigration, security and European policy.

The concept of "issue ownership" is an essential aspect of modern politics and the strategic positioning of political parties. It is based on the idea that each political party seeks to be associated with specific issues that are perceived to be important to voters. The idea is to create a mental association between the party and the issue so that when voters think of the issue, they also think of the party. The Greens, for example, have built their political identity around environmental issues. They have sought to position themselves as champions of the environment and sustainability, and have made efforts to ensure that these issues are associated with their brand image. As a result, voters who are particularly concerned about environmental issues are likely to think of the Greens when they vote. The Socialist Party, on the other hand, has long been associated with the defence of workers' rights and the redistribution of wealth. They have cultivated an image as defenders of the working classes and promoters of social equality. As a result, voters who are concerned about social and economic inequalities, or who favour a policy of redistribution, are more likely to vote for the Socialist Party. The PLR, on the other hand, has sought to position itself as the party of the economy, emphasising issues of economic policy, liberalism and free markets. Voters who are concerned about these issues are more likely to vote for the PLR. Finally, the SVP has positioned itself as the party of immigration, security and European policy. Voters who consider these issues to be of particular importance are more likely to vote for the SVP.

A political party's reputation for competence on a certain issue, or its "ownership of the issue", is generally stable and difficult to change. This stability stems from several factors. Firstly, a party's reputation for competence on a given issue is often the result of many years, even decades, of work and commitment on that issue. A party that has regularly and consistently defended a certain position on an issue, or that has made that issue a central part of its political programme, has generally succeeded in convincing voters of its competence in the matter. Changing voters' perceptions takes time. Secondly, political parties are generally reluctant to radically change their position on an issue, as this could be perceived as opportunism or fickleness, which could alienate their voter base. This is why they tend to adhere to long-held positions and issues. However, when the perceived importance of a certain issue increases among voters - perhaps due to current events or social or economic changes - a party with a strong reputation for competence on that issue may benefit electorally. For example, if the environment suddenly becomes a much more important issue for voters, it is likely that environmental parties will see their support increase.

In 2015, at the height of the migration crisis, the subject of immigration and refugees dominated the political debate in Switzerland, as in many other European countries. This benefited the Swiss People's Party (SVP), which had long made limiting immigration one of its main political axes. Because of its firm stance on the issue and its reputation as a party with solutions, even if some people considered them simplistic, to the immigration question, the SVP was able to attract a large number of voters concerned about the migration crisis. Even without an intense election campaign, the SVP was able to make its point because the subject was constantly in the news. This probably contributed to their election victory in October 2015.

Source: Nicolet and Sciarini (2010: 451)

This graph comes from a survey conducted after the 2007 Swiss federal elections. In this survey, we systematically followed a certain methodology. Firstly, we asked respondents to identify the most important problem facing Switzerland at the time. This was an open question, allowing people to answer freely. We then grouped these responses into different categories to facilitate analysis. We then asked a follow-up question: "In your opinion, which party is best placed to solve problem X that you have identified? This allowed us to understand which party voters associated with the ability to solve the specific problems they had identified. In another section of the questionnaire, we asked respondents which party they had voted for in the election. By combining these three pieces of information - the most important problem, the party considered most competent to solve that problem and the actual vote - we can understand how perceptions of problems and party competence influenced voting behaviour.

This graph includes all the people surveyed, i.e. 1,716 people. These individuals all took part in the elections and chose a party. On the first line of the table, we have broken down the answers to the first question, which was open-ended. For 35% of respondents, immigration, security and the integration of refugees were the most important issues. For 16%, it was the environment. For 31% of respondents, their main concern was the economy and the state of social security. If we add up these percentages, we don't reach 100%. The reason for this is simple: there are other important issues that respondents mentioned, but which are not included in this table.

The second row of the table focuses on the party that respondents feel is most competent to solve the problem they have identified. These percentages are calculated on the basis of those who responded. For example, of the 35% who identified 'immigration' as a major problem, a large proportion, 27%, indicated that the UDC (Union démocratique du centre) or the PS (Parti socialiste) were the most competent to solve it. More specifically, 75% of those who cited 'immigration' as a major problem felt that the SVP was best placed to tackle it. Finally, on the last line, we look at what these people actually voted for. For example, 17% of the 1,716 people who responded said that they voted for the SVP because they considered it to be the most competent party to deal with immigration, which is their main problem.

These data do not necessarily provide direct evidence of a causal link between the problem identified, the perception of a party's competence to solve it, and the actual vote. However, they do indicate a correlation between these elements. More specifically, they show that the importance of the immigration issue and the perception of the SVP's competence to deal with it may have influenced the vote for the SVP. This does not mean that all those who identified immigration as a major issue and saw the SVP as competent to deal with it voted for the SVP, but it is likely that there is some tendency or influence in this direction.

The Swiss People's Party (SVP), with its populist discourse and focus on issues such as immigration, national independence and security, has had a marked influence on Swiss politics over the past two decades. This has prompted a great deal of research and analysis, both nationally and internationally, to understand how and why the SVP has gained influence and how this has changed the Swiss political landscape. This research has examined various aspects, including the SVP's electoral strategies, its communication and rhetoric, and the wider socio-economic context in which it has managed to thrive.

Exploiting electoral potential[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Firstly, socio-professional or class position has been identified as a key factor influencing the SVP vote. Certain social classes may feel more attracted to the SVP's discourse, particularly those who feel threatened by immigration or globalisation. Secondly, specific issues, such as immigration, play a major role. The SVP has succeeded in positioning itself as the party most competent to deal with the issues of immigration, security and national sovereignty. When these issues become salient in the public debate, the SVP benefits, as a significant proportion of voters perceive the party to be best placed to deal with them. These two factors, combined with other elements such as the party's effective communication and its skilful use of populist rhetoric, help to explain the SVP's rise and success in the Swiss political landscape. A third type of explanation refers to the party's strategies and the effects of these strategies in terms of mobilisation.

The SVP has used powerful mobilisation strategies to reach its electorate and encourage them to vote. Even if we do not analyse these strategies directly, we can observe their clear effects through election results and polling data. A crucial aspect of the SVP's success is its ability to galvanise and mobilise its electorate effectively. The impact of this mobilisation can be clearly seen in the increase in support for the SVP over the years, a testament to the effectiveness of their strategies. For example, the SVP has been able to generate enthusiasm among its voters by focusing on important and topical issues such as immigration and security, and by offering simple and straightforward solutions to these problems. In addition, the party has managed to maintain constant communication with its electorate, both during and outside election campaigns, thereby strengthening its support. While it is beyond the scope of this discussion to analyse the specific methods employed by the SVP to achieve this objective, it is clear that their ability to effectively mobilise their electorate has played a crucial role in their continued success.

The question "which party did you vote for" is fundamental to understanding electoral trends. However, there are other methods of gathering information on political preferences that are not limited solely to the actual vote. For example, one approach is to ask participants to rate their degree of sympathy for different political parties on a scale of 1 to 10. This makes it possible to understand not only people's electoral choice, but also their ideological closeness to other parties. Another measure is to ask participants whether they consider themselves close to a particular party, even if they do not always vote for that party. This can reveal partisan affinities that do not necessarily translate into voting in elections. It is also possible to ask questions about participants' attitudes to specific political issues to determine their ideological alignment. For example, their views on issues such as immigration, the economy and the environment can indicate which party they are likely to lean towards. These approaches provide a more nuanced picture of partisan preferences, offering a richer and more complex understanding of electoral behaviour.

Focusing solely on an individual's electoral choice can limit our understanding of their overall political preferences. If someone says they voted for the SVP, this does not give us any information about their disposition towards other parties. For example, this person might also have been inclined to vote for the PLR, but ultimately chose the UDC. Similarly, someone who voted for the Greens might also have considered the Socialist Party as a viable option. Once they have declared that they voted for the Greens, we lose all information about their other potential preferences. This is why it is useful to use complementary measures to explore partisan preferences, as discussed above. By asking people to rate their sympathy for different parties on a scale, or to say whether they feel close to more than one party, we can get a fuller picture of their personal political landscape. This can help reveal nuances in their preferences and identify trends that are not immediately apparent through voting.

What we do is to use a method that asks questions about all the parties. This method is called the vote probability measure. In the survey, we propose a scale from 0 to 10, asking people to rate the probability that one day they would vote for a certain party. The same question is asked for all the main political parties, giving a comparative perspective. In this way, we have information not only on the party that the person has chosen, but also on the other parties that they have not chosen. This makes it possible to compare the parties in much more detail than the simple question of "electoral choice".

After asking all the participants in the survey what their probability is of ever voting for the main parties present in their canton, for example, we can then calculate the average probability of voting for a specific party. It's fairly straightforward, and just involves summing and averaging the probabilities. We add up the scores of each respondent and divide by the total number of respondents. What we get is the average probability of voting for a party, which can be regarded as the party's electoral potential. This operation can be carried out for each party separately.

Then, using this data, we can calculate what is known as the realisation rate or the rate of exploitation of the electoral potential. This is calculated by creating a simple ratio between a party's actual electoral strength, i.e. the percentage of votes it received, and its electoral potential, derived from the survey, which is the average probability of voting for that party. The ratio thus obtained provides a measure of the parties' ability to convert their electoral potential into real support.

Electoral Potential of Parties and Average Probability of Voting[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Let's start with the electoral potential measured in the surveys, in other words the average probability of voting for one party or another.

Source: Données Selects (mes calculs (M. Sciarini), N=4064-4261)

This graph, based on surveys carried out following the federal elections of 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011, illustrates the average probability of voting for each party, in other words the electoral potential of each party. It is clear that for all the parties, their electoral potential is much higher than their actual electoral strength.

Let's take the example of the Greens: they have an electoral potential of 44%, which means that on average, across the whole sample, the probability of an individual voting for the Greens is 4.4 out of 10. In percentage terms, this represents 44%. However, at the end of 2015, the Greens only really had 7% or 8% of the vote. This is the most glaring example of the gap between a party's electoral potential and its actual electoral performance. It is important to stress that the large difference between the electoral potential and the actual votes obtained by the Greens can be explained by two factors. The first is that this graph takes into account the entire electorate, including those who do not vote. Many of these are young people who have a preference for the Greens. The Greens' appeal to young people therefore boosts their electoral potential, but does not translate into votes, as young people tend to vote less often. The second factor is the competition between the Greens and the Socialist Party. These two parties compete for a large proportion of the same potential electorate, but in the end, voters tend to vote more often for the Socialist Party than for the Greens.

There are two important points to remember. Firstly, although potential voting is much higher than actual voting, the two are highly correlated. Indeed, the correlation between potential and actual voting at the individual level is 0.8 to 0.9, indicating a very close relationship. Secondly, although voting potential fluctuates slightly from one survey to the next, it does not change significantly. There was some decline in potential for the Socialists, but they managed to recover some of it in 2011. According to these measures, the two left-wing parties, the Greens and the Socialist Party, have the highest electoral potential.

The main point to note from this graph concerns the SVP. As can be seen, their electoral potential is stable and relatively low, never exceeding 40%. This means that the SVP's electoral potential is both fairly stable and among the lowest of all the parties considered here, including newer parties such as the BBD and the Liberal Greens. What we can conclude from this analysis is that the SVP's success cannot be attributed to a growth in its electoral potential - in fact, this potential has remained constant and even decreased slightly in 2011 compared to 2007. The key point here is that the SVP's potential has not grown and remains relatively low. This is rather surprising when compared with the SVP's marked upward electoral trajectory.

Electoral Potential Utilisation Rate[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

This graph illustrates the rate at which potential is realised. In other words, it is the ratio between the party's electoral strength and its potential.

*mes calculs = M. Sciarini

What we are seeing here is a significant and steady increase in the SVP's success rate. In 1995, 1999, 2003 and even 2011, the SVP almost systematically improved its ability to mobilise its potential electorate. It is this ability that largely explains the SVP's success. This is not a question of an increase in the SVP's popularity among the electorate - the party remains about as popular as it was twenty years ago, which is to say, not very popular. However, voters who consider voting for the SVP do so much more often than for the other parties. The take-up rate for the other parties is just over 40%, and even less than 20% for the Greens, in stark contrast to the SVP.

Indeed, the SVP's rise over the last two decades can be attributed primarily to its increasing ability to mobilise voters, although its potential electorate has remained relatively constant. The SVP seems to have succeeded in galvanising its 'friends' to vote for it more regularly or in greater numbers, even if the overall number of its 'friends' has not increased. Clearly, the party has succeeded in effectively mobilising its potential electorate and converting it into actual votes. This also shows the importance of voter mobilisation in the success of a political party.

Comparison of electoral openness[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

In recent years, several countries in Europe have seen a significant rise in populist parties. This phenomenon is often attributed to a variety of economic, social and political factors.

Sciarini ouverture comparative élections au Parlement européen de 2014.png

This table seeks to show the similarities between the party families. There is a general trend across Europe towards a rise in populism, as these figures show. Right-wing populist parties have grown in popularity in many countries, often focusing on issues such as immigration, nationalism and opposition to European integration. These figures underline the rise of populism across Europe, where many right-wing populist parties have managed to capture a significant share of the vote. Here is a little more background on each of these parties:

  • The Front National (FN) in France, now known as Rassemblement National, is a far-right party led by Marine Le Pen. It won 25% of the vote in the 2014 European elections. The party is best known for its hardline positions on immigration and nationalism.
  • The Freedom Party in Austria, led by Heinz-Christian Strache at the time, won 20% of the vote in the 2014 European elections. The party spoke out against immigration and Islam and argued for a sovereign Austria.
  • UKIP in the UK won 28% of the vote in the 2014 European elections. The party, best known for its support for the UK's exit from the European Union (Brexit), capitalised on dissatisfaction with the EU and concerns about immigration.
  • Italy's Five Star movement won 21% of the vote in the 2014 European elections. Although harder to classify on the traditional political scale, the party has opposed the political establishment and supported populist initiatives such as universal basic income.
  • The Danish People's Party won 27% of the vote in the 2014 European elections. It campaigned on issues of immigration and national sovereignty.
  • The Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, led by Geert Wilders, won 13% of the vote. The party is known for its anti-Islam and anti-immigration stance.
  • In Sweden, the Sweden Democrats won almost 10% of the vote in the 2014 European elections. It is a right-wing nationalist party that opposes immigration and advocates social conservatism.

These results testify to the rise of right-wing populism in Europe, with common themes of opposition to immigration, scepticism about the EU and rejection of the political establishment. The rise of right-wing populism and political parties similar to the Swiss People's Party (SVP) is not a phenomenon confined to Switzerland. A similar trend can be observed in many European countries. In France, for example, the Rassemblement National (formerly the Front National) has grown in popularity in recent decades. This party, which advocates nationalism, anti-immigration and scepticism towards the European Union, has enjoyed significant success at the ballot box. Similarly, in Austria, the Freedom Party (FPÖ), which shares many characteristics with the SVP, has been a major player in Austrian politics in recent years. It was part of the coalition government from 2017 to 2019. In the UK, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and more recently the Brexit Party have won significant support with an agenda of rejecting the European Union, controlling immigration and protecting British interests. All these parties have succeeded in mobilising an electorate that feels let down by the traditional parties, and is concerned about issues such as immigration, national sovereignty and globalisation. This is a phenomenon that has significant implications for European politics and is likely to continue to play an important role in the years ahead.

Sciarini 2015 ouverture comparative élections parlementaires nationale.png

Election results can vary considerably depending on the type of election. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, there is the question of turnout. In general, turnout in European elections is much lower than in national elections. This can favour political parties with a dedicated and motivated electorate, as is often the case with populist parties. Secondly, the issues at stake in the elections can play an important role. European elections often focus on issues of national sovereignty and European integration, themes that are central to the agenda of populist parties. As a result, these parties may be more successful in European elections than in national ones. Thirdly, there is the factor of the electoral system. For example, in France, the electoral system for parliamentary elections is a two-round majority system, which can make it more difficult for minority parties to win seats. In contrast, European elections are organised according to a proportional representation system, which encourages a greater diversity of parties. These and other factors may explain why a party like the Front National in France can achieve very different results from one election to the next.

European elections are often seen as "second-order" elections because they tend to attract less attention and have a lower turnout than major national elections, such as parliamentary or presidential elections. As a result of this perception, voters may be more inclined to use their vote to express their dissatisfaction with the government of the day, rather than focusing on the specific issues at stake in the European election. This can often result in increased support for opposition or populist parties, which may explain some of the exceptional performances of the Front National and similar parties in European elections. However, although sometimes perceived as less important, European elections can nevertheless have a significant impact, not least in influencing the composition of the European Parliament and shaping policies and decisions at EU level. It is therefore crucial not to downplay their importance.

Populist or 'disaffected' parties may enjoy stronger support in second-order elections, such as the European elections. Voters may be more inclined to express dissatisfaction with the government of the day or to express more radical views than they would in major national elections. However, it is also important to note that the success of these parties in major national elections, with the examples of the FPE in Austria, the Cinque Stelle in Italy, and the People's Party in Denmark, shows that this is a significant political phenomenon that goes beyond second-order elections alone. It may be indicative of wider feelings of discontent, frustration or alienation among certain segments of the population, who may be attracted by the rhetoric and policies of these parties. It is therefore essential for researchers, policy-makers and observers to take these trends into account when analysing the current political landscape.

Case Study 3: The Influence of Gender and Age on Political Participation[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The analysis of electoral participation is another facet of the study of electoral behaviour. In the scheme of things, the act of participation precedes the electoral choice. Consequently, it is crucial to first understand the reasons why voters do or do not decide to go to the polls before examining their voting preferences. Logically, the initial objective is to decipher who participates in elections, who abstains and for what reasons, before looking at the parties or candidates they vote for.

Comparative analysis[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Sciarini 2015 taux de participation aux élections et votations fédérales 1.png

This first graph shows the trend in voter turnout at federal elections and votes in Switzerland from 1919 to 2015. In other words, it represents the percentage of the eligible population that has voted in federal elections and referenda since the end of the First World War.

The graph shows a significant drop in turnout in both elections (shown in red) and votes (shown in black). After the First World War, turnout in elections was 80%, but declined steadily to a low of less than 45% in 1995. Voter turnout was lower and more variable, but we see a similar trend between the 1940s and 1970s, peaking at an average turnout of 40% in the late 1970s.

For elections, the turnout rate corresponds to that of the current year's election. For referenda, on the other hand, the rate represents the average turnout over all referenda held over a four-year period. In Switzerland, federal referenda are held four times a year. So to obtain the turnout rate over a four-year period, we need to calculate the average turnout over that period. This is the methodology used to plot and compare the two curves.

We can see a downward trend in voter turnout, which reached its lowest point in the 1990s for elections, then a slight upturn since 1995, with a levelling off in the last three elections. For the election on 18 October 2015, the turnout rate was around 43.8%, similar to the 2011 and 2007 elections when it was just under 48%. Voter turnout has also stabilised at around 43% over the last three periods.

Voter turnout is a key indicator of civic engagement and the democratic health of a society. A high turnout is generally interpreted as a sign of legitimacy of the elected government and confidence in the political system. Similarly, low turnout may indicate dissatisfaction with the political options available, distrust of the political system, or a lack of interest in politics. In the Swiss context, we have observed a general downward trend in voter turnout throughout the twentieth century, with a low point reached in the 1990s. This trend can be attributed to a number of factors. One may be the feeling among some voters that their votes do not have a significant impact on the outcome of elections. This may be particularly the case in a consensual political system such as Switzerland's, where the main parties often govern together in coalitions. In addition, social changes, such as urbanisation and longer working hours, can also contribute to a decline in voter turnout. Individuals may feel disconnected from their local community and therefore less inclined to participate in the electoral process. However, since 1995 we have seen a slight increase in voter turnout, followed by a levelling off in the last three elections. This could be interpreted as a sign of renewed interest in politics, perhaps stimulated by political issues of national importance or by effective campaigns to encourage voter turnout. Compared with elections, turnout in referenda - where citizens are asked to vote directly on specific issues - has also been on a downward trend, but has stabilised at around 43% over the last three periods observed. This could indicate that, although voter turnout has declined, citizens' engagement with specific political issues remains relatively stable.

The overall picture that emerges is one of a sharp fall in turnout, and the question that needs to be asked is where this sharp fall in turnout is coming from.

We're going to focus on two factors that can help us understand political participation, two factors that help explain turnout and abstention, two fairly fundamental factors that are gender and age. Gender and age are two decisive factors when it comes to analysing electoral behaviour and political participation. Here is a brief analysis of these two factors:

  • Gender: Historically, gender differences in turnout have been significant in many countries, although this trend has changed over time. In the past, men were generally more likely to vote than women, but this trend has faded in many contexts, and in some countries women are now more likely to vote than men. However, there are still significant differences in party choice or political preferences between men and women.
  • Age: Voter turnout often varies considerably between age groups. As a general rule, younger adults are less likely to vote than their elders, although this may vary depending on the political context and the perceived importance of the election. Older people generally have more experience of politics, greater residential stability and are more likely to have links with community or political organisations, which may encourage them to vote.

These two factors can combine in different ways to influence voting behaviour. For example, young women may have different turnout rates to older women, or men of the same age. It is important to consider these interactions when analysing electoral participation.

Sciarini 2015 taux de participation aux élections fédérales de 1995 à Genève.png

These turnout figures for federal elections specific to the canton of Geneva are particularly valuable for a detailed analysis of voting behaviour. The fact that these data are real, rather than based on polls or surveys, gives a more accurate and reliable picture of voter turnout. Since 1995, the canton of Geneva has taken the initiative of collecting and digitally archiving data on the turnout of all its citizens. This allows direct observation of changes in voter turnout over time. It would be interesting to examine these figures in detail to identify trends or changes in voter behaviour. The data can be analysed according to various factors such as age, gender, place of residence, occupation, level of education, etc. to gain a more in-depth understanding of the factors influencing voter turnout. These data could also be useful for assessing the effectiveness of various initiatives aimed at increasing voter turnout.

The turnout curve shown for the 1995 federal election resembles a classic, almost perfect, example of what one would expect. It provides a realistic representation of voter turnout in the population. It is a vivid illustration of voter turnout in action, clearly demonstrating how it varies according to different age groups or other demographic categories. Interpreting this curve can reveal important trends in voter turnout. For example, it might indicate which age groups are most likely to vote, or which segments of the population might need more awareness-raising or education about the importance of voting.

This curve is ideal for demonstrating the trend in voter turnout as a function of age. When young people reach the age of 18 and acquire the right to vote, there is a higher peak in turnout than in the 20-25 age group. This increase can be explained by the excitement of exercising a new right. The curve then becomes U-shaped. The low point in participation is between the ages of 20 and 29, after which participation increases almost linearly with age, reaching a peak between the ages of 65 and 69. Beyond this age, participation begins to decline quite considerably. This shows an interesting trend whereby middle-aged and older people are more likely to participate in elections than younger adults. This may be explained by a number of factors, such as an increase in interest in politics with age, greater stability in life giving more time for civic participation, or a heightened awareness of the importance of voting. Conversely, the drop in turnout among the very elderly can be attributed to factors such as health problems or difficulty in accessing polling stations.

Sciarini 2015 taux de participation aux élections fédérales de 2015 à Genève.png

If we re-examine the same data for 2015, we see a curve similar to that for 1995, with the same general movement. However, the initial fall in participation is slightly less pronounced, and the participation rate does not fall below that of the youngest age group, as was the case in the previous graph. This is mainly due to the way in which the age groups have been grouped together in this chart: whereas in the previous chart we had age categories up to 90+, in this chart all people aged 85+ are grouped together in a single category. This has the effect of raising the average turnout, as it is generally accepted that older people tend to vote more regularly than younger age groups. However, the overall shape of the curve remains the same, showing an initially high turnout among young people who have just acquired the right to vote, a decline among young adults, then a steady increase with age to a peak in old age, before falling again among the very old.

An interesting trend emerges from these two graphs. Previously, peak participation was reached between the ages of 65 and 75 for men. However, in 2015, peak participation was reached among men aged 75 to 79 and among women aged 70 to 74. So there seems to be a trend towards voting later and later in life, which would be consistent with increasing life expectancy. As people get older, they stay healthier and more active, which enables them to stay involved and continue voting for longer than before. This suggests that age has a significant impact on voter turnout. This may be because older people often have more free time to inform themselves and engage with the political process, and are also more likely to feel the impact of government policies on their daily lives. In addition, voting is sometimes perceived as a civic duty, a feeling that can increase with age.

The graphs show a clear trend in the difference in participation between the sexes. Whether in 1995 or 2015, young women tend to participate more than young men. After the age of 20 to 24, when participation rates for men and women are almost identical, the difference in participation between the sexes tends to increase with age. This difference is particularly pronounced among older people. For example, among people aged 85 to 89, the participation rate is around 40% for women, compared with over 30% for men. Among people aged 85 and over, the gap is even greater, with a participation rate of 40% among women compared with over 55% among men. There may be several explanations for this difference. Women may be more likely than men to engage in the political process and vote. It is also possible that men are more likely to abstain from voting due to various factors, such as negative perceptions of politics or a lack of confidence in the political system. There may also be socio-cultural factors at work, with different attitudes towards voting and political participation between the sexes.

These graphs show that age and gender are two key factors in electoral participation. While the difference in turnout between men and women is minimal among young voters, this gap tends to increase with age. Voter turnout generally increases with age, a pattern that is mirrored for both men and women. However, the gender gap in turnout widens as age groups increase. This may suggest that socio-cultural factors or living conditions, which can vary with age, play a role in this divergence. It is also interesting to note that, although participation rates increase with age, this is not always the case. For example, among women, participation tends to peak between the ages of 70 and 74 and then decline slightly. This analysis highlights the importance of taking both factors - age and gender - into account when studying voting behaviour. It is not enough to look at one without taking the other into account, as they clearly interact to influence voter turnout.

We will now try to explain why there is this difference in turnout as a function of age on the one hand and gender on the other.

The Influence of Gender on Political Participation[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Firstly, there are socio-structural factors that have historically explained the difference in participation between men and women.

The first socio-structural factor is the lesser social and professional integration of women. This theory suggests that greater social and professional integration leads to greater political participation. Social integration can include a sense of belonging to a community, the ability to understand and participate in the social life of that community, and involvement in activities that help to strengthen social ties within the community. Professional integration, for its part, can include factors such as stable employment, access to education and training, and the opportunity to progress professionally. The fact that women have historically been less socially and professionally integrated than men (due to factors such as family time use, societal expectations and professional inequalities) would have had an impact on their political commitment. According to this perspective, women's social and professional integration was limited, which could partly explain why they were less likely to participate in politics. It is a view that highlights the importance of gender equality in all areas of life, including the world of work and social life, in order to promote more balanced political participation.

It is true that women generally have a longer life expectancy than men, which means that they are more likely to find themselves widowed at some point in their lives. The social isolation that can result from widowhood can potentially limit political participation. Indeed, the loss of a spouse can lead to a reduction in social interaction and exposure to a variety of political views, both of which in turn can reduce interest in and commitment to politics. In addition, widows may also face economic hardship, which could make them less likely to participate actively in political life. These socio-structural factors could explain why women, and older women in particular, participate less in politics.

In 2015, 80% of widowers were women and 20% men. In the general population, there are 51% women and 49% men, whereas in the widowhood category, there are 80% women and 20% men. This goes some way to explaining why widowhood is such a powerful factor in social isolation. This disparity, with a much higher number of widowed women than men, is undoubtedly due to the difference in life expectancy between the sexes. On average, women live longer than men, which means they are more likely to outlive their spouse and become widows. The social isolation that often results from widowhood can be an obstacle to political participation. Individuals who are socially isolated have fewer opportunities to interact with other people and to be exposed to different political ideas and opinions, which can reduce their interest in politics and their willingness to take part in elections. It is important to note that this situation can be exacerbated for older women, who already face other forms of social exclusion. These structural barriers can make it more difficult for these women to participate actively in politics, contributing to the participation gap.

Widowhood and the resulting social isolation can have a significant impact on political participation. As noted, this phenomenon affects women more often, due to their longer life expectancy.

If we adjust the data to balance the number of widowers and widows, we could probably observe a reduction in the participation gap between men and women. This could indicate that widowhood and social isolation are important factors contributing to the gender gap in political participation among older people. Another explanation is socio-cultural factors, and more specifically the persistence of traditional role models for women. This is almost independent of the sociostructural factors, which is the fact that for a very long time the traditional model of the vision of women in society and the role of women in society in both the private and public spheres has been maintained, which has had the effect of reducing the participation rate of women compared with men.

In Switzerland, women's right to vote was granted very late compared with other countries. At federal level, this right was not granted until 1971, well after most other Western countries. In some more conservative cantons, women had to wait even longer to obtain the right to vote at cantonal level. This was the case in the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden, which did not grant women the right to vote until 1991, following a decision by the Federal Court. This delay in obtaining the right to vote probably had an impact on the political participation of women, particularly older women. Their integration into the political process was delayed, and they had less time to get used to the idea of voting and to develop the habits and skills associated with political participation. This is probably one of the reasons why women's participation is lower than men's, particularly among the elderly.

The canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden was the last canton in Switzerland to grant women the right to vote, and this did not happen until 1991, under pressure from a Federal Court ruling. The Federal Court ruled that the canton's refusal to grant women the right to vote violated the Federal Constitution, which stipulates equal rights for men and women. This situation is a striking illustration of how social and political norms can differ considerably from one region to another within the same country. It is important to note that although women gained the right to vote at federal level in Switzerland in 1971, it took another twenty years for this right to be fully recognised throughout the country. It's a reminder of how social and political change can be a slow and sometimes divisive process.

What were the consequences of this late granting of the right to vote to women, and how did this affect the turnout rate even today?

The impact of the late acquisition of the right to vote for women in Switzerland, particularly in certain cantons, should not be underestimated. Acquiring the right to vote is often seen as a rite of passage into adulthood, and for women of certain generations in Switzerland, this step only came late. Women who did not gain the right to vote until later in life missed out on many years of the political socialisation that is normally an important part of adulthood. This political socialisation can include things like following elections, discussing political issues with friends and colleagues, and participating in political organisations or groups. Without this political socialisation, these women may have been less inclined to participate in politics when they eventually gained the right to vote. This may help to explain why, in electoral participation statistics, we see lower participation among older women in Switzerland.

Late access to the right to vote prevented these women from acquiring experience and familiarising themselves with political processes at the same age as their male counterparts. This delay has undoubtedly contributed to their disengagement or reduced participation in politics. We can even imagine that this institutional effect is combined with the socio-structural effect of the high incidence of widowhood among women. Indeed, the social isolation resulting from widowhood could combine with a lack of individual political experience to contribute to greater political disengagement among older women. If these women had previously relied on their husbands for information and advice on politics, their participation could decrease after the death of their husbands. This highlights the importance of political empowerment and civic education for all people, regardless of gender. It is crucial that everyone is able to develop their own understanding of political issues and engage autonomously in the political process.

The intersection of these factors - widowhood and the late acquisition of the right to vote - may play an important role in the political disengagement of older women in Switzerland. The history of women's suffrage in Switzerland is unique and reflects a broader social and political evolution that has led to fuller political inclusion. Nonetheless, the legacy of political exclusion persists and is evident in election turnout rates. Older women in Switzerland, who gained the right to vote later in life, may have had fewer opportunities to gain political experience and civic engagement, which may explain why they disengage from the political process at a higher rate than men of the same age. Furthermore, the impact of widowhood on social isolation and therefore on political participation should not be underestimated. This reinforces the need for public policies and targeted interventions to encourage political engagement among vulnerable populations, including older women.

The revisionist thesis on women's political participation offers a new and critical perspective on the traditional factors of analysis. It suggests that traditional explanations of women's participation may no longer be sufficient to understand current trends in women's political participation. In the modern context, a number of structural changes have been observed that have influenced women's political participation. Women have become more present in the world of work, better educated and more involved in the public sphere. These transformations may lead to a change in the relationship between gender, age and political participation. The revisionist thesis suggests that the pattern of women's participation in elections has changed and that we need to look at other factors to understand women's political participation today. These factors may include level of education, labour force participation, economic independence, marriage and motherhood, among others.

Over the last few decades, the social and professional integration of women has increased considerably, which has had a significant impact on their political participation. Firstly, the increase in women's education has strengthened their social integration. Women now have access to all levels of education, including higher education, which gives them a better knowledge and understanding of political issues. Secondly, the increase in women's participation in the workforce has also strengthened their social and professional integration. Today, more and more women work full-time and hold managerial positions. This has given them greater economic autonomy, which in turn has strengthened their ability to participate in politics. Thirdly, changes in women's role within the family have also contributed to their social and professional integration. With more women working, the traditional model of the housewife has been challenged. In addition, with the rise in divorce and single-parent families, more and more women are taking on the role of head of household, which may also increase their political participation. All these factors have contributed to a 'catch-up effect' where women have caught up with men in terms of political participation. However, it is important to note that despite this progress, disparities persist. For example, women are still under-represented in political leadership positions and structural barriers to women's political participation, such as sexism and discrimination, still exist.

The rise of women in the professional sphere has significant political implications. Historically, women have been largely excluded from political life and their rate of political participation has been lower than that of men. However, with their increasing integration into the world of work and greater participation in social life, women have acquired greater economic and social autonomy. This, in turn, has stimulated their involvement and participation in politics. In addition, women's entry into the world of work has also changed the dynamics of family and domestic life, with a more equal division of domestic responsibilities between men and women. This has also freed up women's time and energy, which can be devoted to political participation. Women are more socially and professionally integrated than they were before, so they are also more politically integrated than they were before, and they are eventually catching up with men.

According to this revisionist thesis, the gender gap in terms of political participation has disappeared. Although many countries have seen a significant reduction in the gender gap in terms of political participation, differences still persist in some countries, including Switzerland. In many developed countries, including the USA, the Scandinavian countries, France and Germany, the gender gap in political participation has narrowed significantly in recent decades. This is largely due to a combination of factors, including changing societal attitudes, improved access to education for women, greater integration of women into the workforce, as well as deliberate political efforts to increase women's representation in politics. The gender gap in political participation is not limited to voting in elections. It also extends to other aspects of political participation, such as standing for election, holding political leadership positions, being active in political parties, and taking part in social movements and demonstrations.

In Switzerland, although there has been an increase in women's participation in elections, there is still a gender gap in terms of political representation. For example, women are under-represented in political leadership positions, and fewer women are elected to political office than men.

According to surveys, there is no longer a turnout gap between men and women at federal referenda in Switzerland. However, a slight gap persists at election time, with slightly lower turnout among women. In Switzerland, although the process of catching up and convergence is underway, it is not yet complete. It is possible that this catching-up process is also influenced by the fact that the impact of the institutional factor - the late granting of the right to vote to women - is diminishing over time. Indeed, the proportion of women who have reached adulthood without the right to vote is gradually decreasing.

In Switzerland, as in many other countries, women's participation in elections has increased considerably over time. This can be attributed to a number of factors, including greater gender equality, greater social and professional integration of women and greater political awareness and education. It is also true that the effect of women's late enfranchisement in Switzerland is fading over time, as more and more women acquire the right to vote as soon as they come of age. This means that there are fewer and fewer women who reached adulthood without the right to vote, and that this historical institutional effect has less influence on current trends in electoral participation. However, there is still a certain gap in turnout between men and women at elections in Switzerland, although this gap is gradually narrowing. Moreover, it is crucial to continue working to eliminate the obstacles that still prevent some women from participating fully in political and social life.

Fewer and fewer women were affected by the lack of voting rights when they came of age, so the institutional impact will gradually diminish and eventually disappear. There are still disparities, for example in Geneva, where the gap in participation between men and women is almost negligible. Although there is still a difference, it is very small indeed. The existence of this small participation gap between men and women in Geneva suggests that women's political socialisation has improved considerably over time. This can be attributed to a number of factors, such as the greater social and professional integration of women, and the gradual disappearance of the institutional impact associated with the fact that women were granted the right to vote later than men.

Analysis of the Effect of Age on Political Participation[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

L'âge en tant que variable démographique peut encapsuler plusieurs facteurs qui contribuent à expliquer les différences de comportement, y compris en matière de participation politique. Derrière la variable « âge », il y a différents types de mécanismes.

Il y a trois principaux effets d’âge :

  • Effets de cohorte : Les personnes nées à différentes époques ont vécu des expériences historiques et sociales distinctes qui peuvent façonner leur comportement tout au long de leur vie. Par exemple, une personne qui a grandi pendant une période de bouleversements politiques majeurs peut être plus politiquement active à l'âge adulte que quelqu'un qui n'a pas eu cette expérience.
  • Effets du cycle de vie : Les priorités et les responsabilités des gens changent à mesure qu'ils vieillissent, ce qui peut influencer leur niveau d'engagement politique. Par exemple, les personnes plus âgées, qui sont souvent à la retraite et ont plus de temps libre, peuvent être plus susceptibles de voter que les jeunes adultes qui sont occupés par leur carrière et leur famille.
  • Effets de période : Ces effets se réfèrent à des événements particuliers qui surviennent à un moment précis dans le temps et qui peuvent affecter toutes les personnes vivantes, indépendamment de leur âge ou de la cohorte à laquelle elles appartiennent. Par exemple, un événement majeur comme une guerre, une crise économique ou une élection très polarisée peut mobiliser ou démobiliser les gens politiquement, quel que soit leur âge. Dans le contexte de la participation politique, un effet de période pourrait être observé si, par exemple, une élection particulièrement controversée ou un référendum sur un enjeu majeur entraînait une augmentation de la participation électorale pour toutes les tranches d'âge. Ces effets de période, lorsqu'ils sont pris en compte avec les effets de cohorte et du cycle de vie, peuvent aider à donner une image plus complète et nuancée de la manière dont l'âge influence la participation politique.

Le Cycle de Vie et l'Effet du Vieillissement Biologique[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

L'âge dans le contexte du parcours de vie a des implications profondes pour l'engagement politique. Il faut cependant préciser que ce ne sont pas les âges en eux-mêmes qui déterminent le niveau d'engagement politique, mais plutôt les rôles et les responsabilités associés à chaque étape de la vie. Par exemple, une personne de 20 ans, souvent en train de suivre des études ou de commencer une carrière, peut avoir moins de temps ou de ressources pour s'engager politiquement. De plus, elle peut ne pas se sentir totalement intégrée dans la société en raison de son manque d'expérience ou de responsabilités familiales et professionnelles. À l'inverse, une personne de 40 ans, qui a probablement une carrière établie, peut être mariée et avoir des enfants. Ces éléments peuvent favoriser une plus grande intégration sociale, ce qui, à son tour, peut mener à un engagement politique accru. Cette intégration peut être alimentée par des réseaux sociaux plus vastes, une exposition à une plus grande diversité d'opinions politiques, et un sentiment accru de responsabilité envers la communauté.

L'expérience politique - ou la compétence politique - est un autre facteur important qui peut influencer la participation politique des individus. Ce n'est généralement pas un ensemble de compétences que l'on acquiert du jour au lendemain, mais plutôt quelque chose qui se développe progressivement avec le temps, à mesure que l'on acquiert de l'expérience et des connaissances sur le système politique. En général, plus on vieillit, plus on a l'occasion de se familiariser avec les enjeux politiques et de comprendre leur impact sur notre vie quotidienne. Cela peut stimuler l'intérêt pour la politique et, par conséquent, la volonté de participer à des élections ou d'autres formes d'engagement politique. En d'autres termes, l'âge peut contribuer à augmenter notre capacité à comprendre la politique et à y participer activement.

L'âge peut avoir des impacts contrastés sur la participation politique. D'une part, avec le temps, les gens gagnent en expérience et en connaissance, ce qui peut stimuler leur engagement politique. D'autre part, le vieillissement peut aussi entraîner des problèmes de santé et un isolement social accru, ce qui peut limiter la capacité ou la volonté de participer à la vie politique. À mesure que les gens vieillissent, ils peuvent être confrontés à diverses difficultés, telles que des problèmes de santé qui limitent leur mobilité ou leur capacité à participer pleinement à la vie sociale. De plus, la retraite et la perte de proches peuvent également entraîner un sentiment d'isolement et une diminution de l'intégration sociale, ce qui peut à son tour réduire l'engagement politique. C'est donc une interaction complexe entre l'âge, l'expérience, l'intégration sociale et la santé qui détermine le niveau de participation politique d'un individu. Cette relation multidimensionnelle peut expliquer pourquoi la participation politique tend à augmenter avec l'âge, mais peut également diminuer chez les personnes très âgées.

L'Effet de Génération ou l'Effet de Cohorte[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

L'effet de cohorte, aussi appelé effet générationnel, fait référence à l'influence des événements historiques et culturels vécus par une génération spécifique à un moment précis de son développement. Les personnes nées au même moment partagent une expérience commune qui peut influencer de manière significative leur comportement et leurs attitudes, y compris leur participation politique. Par exemple, une génération qui a grandi pendant une période de guerre ou de bouleversements sociaux majeurs peut avoir une vision très différente de la politique et de l'engagement civique par rapport à une génération qui a grandi pendant une période de stabilité relative. Ces expériences communes peuvent avoir un impact durable sur les attitudes et les comportements politiques.

L'effet de cohorte ou effet générationnel se base sur l'idée que les événements majeurs qui surviennent pendant notre jeunesse ou notre adolescence ont un impact durable sur notre comportement, y compris notre engagement politique. Par exemple, les personnes qui ont vécu Mai 68 en France ont été profondément marquées par cette période de protestation et de changement social. Cet événement a pu influencer leur perception de la politique, leur niveau d'engagement et leur comportement électoral pour le reste de leur vie. Ils pourraient être plus enclins à participer à des manifestations politiques, à voter pour des candidats progressistes, ou à soutenir des causes sociales ou politiques spécifiques. De la même manière, les personnes qui ont vécu la Seconde Guerre Mondiale, la Guerre Froide, la chute du mur de Berlin, ou d'autres événements historiques majeurs peuvent également avoir des attitudes et des comportements politiques distincts qui sont influencés par ces expériences. Par conséquent, pour comprendre la participation politique, il est nécessaire de prendre en compte non seulement l'âge d'un individu, mais aussi les événements historiques qui ont façonné son expérience et ses attitudes politiques.

Le sentiment du devoir civique et l'importance de voter semblent avoir évolué au fil des générations. Les générations plus âgées, qui ont grandi à une époque où les droits civiques étaient souvent durement gagnés, peuvent considérer le vote non seulement comme un droit, mais aussi comme une obligation essentielle. Par contre, les générations plus jeunes, qui ont grandi dans une époque de plus grande stabilité politique et où le droit de vote est souvent tenu pour acquis, peuvent ne pas ressentir le même sens du devoir civique. De plus, ils peuvent se sentir détachés des structures politiques traditionnelles et préférer s'engager politiquement de manières différentes, par exemple par le biais des médias sociaux ou du militantisme.

L'âge avancé peut entraîner une baisse de la participation politique pour diverses raisons. Il peut s'agir de problèmes de santé limitant la capacité à se rendre aux bureaux de vote ou à s'engager activement dans les activités politiques, ou encore de l'isolement social. De plus, les personnes âgées peuvent parfois se sentir déconnectées des problèmes politiques actuels, ce qui pourrait également réduire leur motivation à participer. Cependant, il est également important de noter que beaucoup de personnes âgées restent politiquement actives et engagées. Elles peuvent avoir plus de temps libre pour suivre l'actualité politique et participer à diverses activités liées à la politique. De plus, avec l'avancée des technologies numériques et l'accessibilité croissante de l'information, de plus en plus de personnes âgées sont en mesure de rester impliquées dans la politique malgré les obstacles physiques potentiels. Enfin, il convient de souligner que même si l'âge peut avoir un impact sur la participation politique individuelle, les tendances générales de participation sont également influencées par une variété d'autres facteurs, comme la confiance dans les institutions politiques, le niveau d'éducation, l'intérêt pour la politique, et les caractéristiques du système électoral lui-même.

L'Effet de Période sur la Participation Politique[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

L'effet de période, aussi parfois appelé effet d'époque, fait référence à l'impact des événements et des conditions sociétales qui se produisent à un moment donné et qui peuvent influencer tous les groupes d'âge et toutes les cohortes de manière similaire. Par exemple, une crise économique majeure, une guerre, une élection particulièrement controversée, un mouvement social d'ampleur, ou une pandémie mondiale (comme le COVID-19) peuvent tous être considérés comme des facteurs de période. Ces événements ont le potentiel de changer les attitudes et les comportements politiques indépendamment de l'âge ou de la cohorte d'une personne. Dans le contexte de la participation politique, l'effet de période pourrait se manifester de plusieurs façons. Par exemple, pendant une crise économique majeure, les gens de tous âges et de toutes cohortes peuvent être plus susceptibles de participer à la politique pour exprimer leur mécontentement ou soutenir les politiques de changement. De même, lors d'élections très polarisées ou controversées, les taux de participation peuvent augmenter à travers tous les groupes d'âge et de cohortes.

L'effet de période dans le contexte politique suisse à partir de 1995, est un exemple illustratif de comment les changements globaux dans le climat politique d'une nation peuvent influencer la participation électorale de l'ensemble de sa population, indépendamment de l'âge ou de la cohorte. La politisation croissante et la polarisation de la politique suisse ont créé un environnement plus compétitif et conflictuel, poussant davantage de personnes à participer activement à la politique. La perception d'enjeux plus importants et plus clairement définis a probablement incité davantage de personnes à voter, car elles peuvent ressentir que leur voix a un impact plus significatif sur les résultats. De plus, l'effet de période peut également être renforcé par les changements dans la communication politique et l'accès à l'information. Avec l'essor des médias sociaux et des plateformes de nouvelles en ligne, l'engagement politique peut être plus accessible et immédiat, ce qui peut également contribuer à une augmentation de la participation électorale.

Différenciation entre l'Effet d'Âge, l'Effet de Cohorte et l'Effet de Période[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Distinguer l'effet d'âge, l'effet de cohorte et l'effet de période peut être un véritable défi en sciences sociales, notamment en politique. Ces trois effets sont souvent entrelacés et peuvent se renforcer mutuellement, ce qui rend difficile leur distinction claire dans l'analyse d'une seule enquête ou élection.

L'effet d'âge est lié à l'évolution personnelle et à l'expérience, l'effet de cohorte est influencé par les événements sociopolitiques qui se sont produits pendant la jeunesse d'un individu, et l'effet de période est le reflet de l'impact d'événements ou de tendances larges et générales qui influencent toutes les générations simultanément. Tous ces effets peuvent avoir un impact sur les attitudes et les comportements politiques d'un individu. Par exemple, une personne née dans les années 60 pourrait avoir des attitudes politiques différentes de celle née dans les années 80 (effet de cohorte), mais leur comportement électoral pourrait également changer à mesure qu'ils vieillissent (effet d'âge). De plus, les événements politiques majeurs peuvent influencer le comportement de vote de tous les âges et cohortes (effet de période). Par conséquent, pour distinguer ces effets, il est souvent nécessaire de réaliser des études longitudinales, qui suivent les mêmes individus ou groupes d'individus sur de longues périodes. De telles études peuvent aider à isoler l'effet de l'âge, de la cohorte et de la période en contrôlant les autres variables.

L'identification précise des effets d'âge, de cohorte et de période nécessite des séries temporelles de longue durée. Ces types de données permettent aux chercheurs d'observer les mêmes individus ou groupes d'individus sur une longue période, leur permettant de suivre les changements dans les attitudes et comportements politiques au fil du temps. Avec une série temporelle de longue durée, les chercheurs peuvent essayer de contrôler ou d'ajuster pour les effets de cohorte et de période, afin de mieux isoler et comprendre l'effet d'âge. De même, ils peuvent également essayer de contrôler l'effet d'âge pour mieux comprendre l'effet de cohorte et de période. Par exemple, ils peuvent comparer les attitudes politiques des individus nés à différentes époques mais à un âge similaire, ou ils peuvent comparer les attitudes des individus du même groupe d'âge à différents moments. Cependant, même avec des séries temporelles de longue durée, il peut être difficile de distinguer parfaitement ces effets en raison de leur nature entrelacée. Néanmoins, ces types de données fournissent un outil précieux pour étudier et comprendre les influences complexes sur les attitudes et comportements politiques.

Il est essentiel d'apprécier la complexité des études sur la participation politique. Alors que les facteurs tels que l'âge et le sexe sont certainement importants et ont été démontrés avoir des impacts significatifs sur la participation politique, il y a beaucoup d'autres variables à prendre en compte. Ces variables peuvent inclure l'éducation, le revenu, l'emploi, la race, l'ethnie, la religion, l'emplacement géographique, l'orientation politique, la satisfaction avec le gouvernement, la confiance dans les institutions politiques, l'intérêt pour la politique, et plus encore. Chacune de ces variables peut interagir avec les autres de manière complexe, influençant la participation politique d'une manière qui peut être difficile à prédire sans un modèle détaillé. De plus, il est également important de noter que la participation politique elle-même peut prendre de nombreuses formes, allant du vote aux manifestations, en passant par l'activisme en ligne ou le bénévolat pour une campagne politique. Ainsi, tout en reconnaissant le poids des facteurs tels que l'âge et le sexe, il est également crucial d'adopter une approche multidimensionnelle pour comprendre la participation politique, une qui tient compte de la variété des facteurs qui peuvent l'influencer et des différentes formes qu'elle peut prendre.

Annexes[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

  • Bartolini, Stefano & Mair, Peter (1990). Identity, Competition, and Electoral Availability. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Bornschier, Simon (2007). Cleavage Politics and the Populist Right. The New Cultural Conflict in Western Europe. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
  • Brunner, Matthias & Sciarini, Pascal (2002). L'opposition ouverture-traditions. In Hug, Simon & Sciarini, Pascal (éds.), Changements de valeurs et nouveaux clivages politiques en Suisse. Paris: L'Harmattan, pp. 29-93.
  • Campbell, A., Converse, P. E., Miller, W. E., & Stokes, D. E. (1960). The American Voter. New York: John Wiley.
  • Downs, Anthony (1957). An economic theory of democracy. New York: Harper and Row.
  • Duverger, Maurice (1951). Les partis politiques. Paris: Seuil
  • Inglehart, Ronald (1977). The silent revolution: Changing values and political styles among western publics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Kerr, Henri (1987). The Swiss Party System: Steadfast and Changing. In Daalder, Hans (ed.), Party Systems in Denmark, Austria, Switzerland the Netherlands and Belgium. London: Frances Pinter.
  • Kriesi, Hanspeter, et al. (2008). West European politics in the Age of Globalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Lazarsfeld, Paul F., Berelson, Bernard & Gaudet, Hazel (1944). The People's Choice. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Nicolet, Sarah & Sciarini, Pascal (2010). Conclusion. In Nicolet, Sarah & Sciarini, Pascal (éds.), Le destin électoral de la gauche. Le vote socialiste et vert en Suisse. Genève: Georg, pp. 439-467.
  • Oesch, Daniel & Rennwald, Line (2010a). La disparition du vote ouvrier? Le vote de classe et les partis de gauche en Suisse. In Nicolet, Sarah & Sciarini, Pascal (éds.) Le destin électoral de la gauche. Le vote socialiste et vert en Suisse. Genève: Georg, pp. 219-256.
  • Oesch, Daniel, & Rennwald, Line (2010b). Un électorat divisé? Les préférences politiques des classes sociales et le vote de gauche en Suisse en 2007. In Nicolet, Sarah & Sciarini, Pascal (éds.), Le destin électoral de la gauche. Le vote socialiste et vert en Suisse. Genève: Georg, pp. 257-291.
  • Petrocik, John, R. (1996). Issue Ownership in Presidential Elections, with a 1980 Case Study. American Journal of Political Science 40(3): 825-850.
  • Sciarini, Pascal (2011). La politique suisse au fil du temps. Genève: Georg.
  • Sciarini, Pascal, Ballmer-Cao, Thanh-Huyen & Lachat, Romain (2001). Genre, âge et participation politique: les élections fédérales de 1995 dans le canton de Genève. Revue suisse de science politique 7(3): 83-98.

References[modifier | modifier le wikicode]