Party Leaders and Party Choice
Elections are widely believed to have become beauty contests in which voters decide who to vote for on the basis of which party leader they like most, rather than which party they think has the best policies or will best represent their interests. Scant evidence was found in support of this proposition. Voters’ evaluations of party leaders appear to be as important or unimportant now as they were when they were first measured. Part of the reason for this appears to be the fact that the importance of leaders is constrained by the political structure in which elections take place. There is strong evidence that leaders matter when a parliamentary election comes closest to mimicking a presidential contest. That is, when the next head of government is likely to be the leader of whichever of two large parties can win the most votes without the need to engage in significant post-election coalition bargaining.
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