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Citizens, Context, and ChoiceHow Context Shapes Citizens' Electoral Choices$
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Russell J. Dalton and Christopher J. Anderson

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199599233

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199599233.001.0001

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Context, Political Information, and Performance Voting

Context, Political Information, and Performance Voting

(p.149) 7 Context, Political Information, and Performance Voting
Citizens, Context, and Choice

Timothy Hellwig

Oxford University Press

What explains whether citizens hold the government accountable for its performance in office? In addressing this question, this chapter argues for a broader investigation of how political context shapes the performance-based vote. For one, analyses should take both contextual- and individual-level heterogeneity into account. Second, theory development and empirical research should consider performance-based vote as a component of the voter's calculus overall. And third, in order to control for issue salience, retrospective evaluations should be measured in general rather than specific terms. These principles are put in practice using data from thirty-five electoral contexts. This chapter finds that retrospective assessments of government performance matter more for vote choice when policy responsibility is concentrated and when the party system provides for a range of choices. Yet the chapter also shows that context affects whether voters become informed, with publics better informed in more complex institutional contexts. Finally, results indicate that political information shapes the calculus of voting. Low-informed individuals place more emphasis on performance-based voting, while party policy appeals matter more for the highly informed. Overall, chapter findings illustrate how factors, both macro and micro, condition the performance vote and, by extension, political accountability.

Keywords:   accountability, economic voting, performance voting, voting behavior, party systems contextual analysis, electoral supply, information, CSES

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