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Exit, Voice, and Cyclicality: A Micrologic of Midterm Effects in European Parliament Elections

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Very few theories of democratic elections can claim to overarch the field. One of them that has not been given due regard, I suggest, is Albert Hirschman's Exit, Voice, and Loyalty. I aim to exploit the integrative capacity of this general framework in a model of typical “midterm” effects occurring through the electoral cycle. The model unites such diverse phenomena as antigovernment swings, declining turnout, protest voting, conversion, and alienation. An empirical test with comparative survey data from elections to the European Parliament reveals that the role of strategic voting in the form of voice is limited. Instead, processes of de‐ and realignment in the form of exit dominate a picture of European Parliament elections beyond the widespread conception of “second‐order” irrelevance. More generally, the “cyclical” view on voting behavior suggests systematic links between short‐run midterm effects and long‐run electoral change.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: European University Institute

Publication date: October 1, 2011

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