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Essays in political economy and voting behaviour

De Neve, Jan-Emmanuel C. J. M. (2011) Essays in political economy and voting behaviour. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis explores how political preferences are shaped by institutions, economic conditions, and personality. Each chapter is a distinct contribution and provides a different perspective on the formation of political preferences and, ultimately, voting behaviour. These different approaches relate to the fields of comparative political economy, behavioural economics, and political psychology. Methodologically, this thesis is empirically applied and the results of these separate enquiries into political preferences are grounded in statistical analysis. A first substantive chapter introduces a median voter data set that provides insight into the ideological position of the electoral centre in over 50 democracies. A second chapter uses this new data and studies cross-national voting behaviour in 18 Western democracies over 1960-2003. It is found that electoral behaviour is closely related to the salience of the following economic institutions: labour organization, skill specificity, and public sector employment. This research shows that political preferences are endogenous to economic institutions and implies the existence of institutional advantages to partisan politics. A third substantive chapter focuses on ideological change in the United States and tests the proposition that voters advance a more liberal agenda in prosperous times and shift towards being more conservative in dire economic times. A reference-dependent utility model relates income growth to political preferences by way of the demand for public goods and the optimal tax rate. This work thus links voting behaviour to economic business cycles and shows that ideological change is endogenous to income growth rates. Finally, a fourth chapter presents the largest study to date of the influence of the big five personality traits on political ideology. In line with prior research in political psychology, it is found that openness to experience strongly predicts liberal ideology and that conscientiousness strongly predicts conservative ideology. A variety of childhood experiences are also studied that may have a differential effect on political ideology based on an individual's personality profile. The findings of this final chapter provide new evidence for the idea that differences in political preferences are deeply intertwined with variation in the nature and nurture of individual personalities. Generally, this thesis provides some new insights into the complex world of political preference formation and does so by exploring the influential role of institutions, economic conditions, and personality.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2011 Jan-Emmanuel C.J.M. De Neve
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: Hix, Simon

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