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The Psychology of Voters in Elections Michael Bruter Sarah Harrison.

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1 The Psychology of Voters in Elections Michael Bruter Sarah Harrison

2 The Psychology of Voters Outline of Presentation  Voters’ electoral memory, responsibility and emotions associated with the vote  What do citizens think about when they stand in the polling booth?  Impact of electoral arrangements on electoral vote and voters’ perceptions of elections  A first attempt to explain participation and voting choice and conclusions

3 Guiding research questions  What do people think about when they stand in the polling booth?  What is the impact of electoral memory, sense responsibility, and individual-societal connection on electoral behaviour?  What are the emotions associated by citizens with the voting experience?  What is the impact of electoral arrangements on the psychological processes mobilised during the vote and how does it impact voting behaviour?  Can we identify some atheoretical but startling relations between voting behaviour and preferences or characteristics of voters?

4 Methodology  Case selection: the countries  Case selection: types of elections  Research design: multi-wave panel surveys, interviews, spot-interviews, experiments etc.

5 Remembering elections Voters remember past elections, including childhood electoral experiences Some of these memories are very ‘physical’ – impact of station location, arrangement, atmosphere Memories of problems (fraud, shock result, queues or organisational problems) are always very vivid Other memories are very individualised (individual discussions, arguments, etc)

6 Memorable elections (UK 2010) A lot/fair amount A littleNothing First time EP Childhood

7 Elections and Emotions Voting is a highly emotional act! Voters attach various positive and negative emotions to the act of voting. Many of these emotions are positive, including (in order) feeling of importance (for the country and oneself), pride, excitement, closeness to fellow citizens and even happiness. However, they also include negative emotions such as worry and pessimism.

8 Emotions associated with the act of voting Neither Bored Excited Sad Happy Worried Reassured Nervous Relaxed Pessimistic Optimistic Ashamed Proud

9 Emotions and voting mode Emotions are significantly more positive for people who go to vote in person as compared to those who use postal voting. They feel prouder, happier, and more excited about the vote than those who use postal voting. Moreover, voters in person also end up feeling more reassured and more relaxed than those who use postal voting.

10 Emotions, vote, voting mode

11 Specific emotions attached to the vote IMC: Importance for coutry, IMP: Personal importance, PRI: Pride, EXC: Excitement, HAP: Happiness, CLO: Closeness to fellow countrymen, CAL: Calm, OPT: Optimism, REA: Reassurance

12 Thoughts in the polling booth % who thought of it Responsibility 78.8 Possible prime ministers 66.6 Constituency candidate 65.4 Vote of the rest of the country 61 ‘Historical’ moment 51.8 Previous election 39.1 Family 38.8 Discussion about the election 37.2 Emotional thought 31.9 Happy thought 31.1 Some previous election 29 Something from the debates 28.9 Campaign message 28.2 Angry thought 25 Argument about the election 14.1 Campaign image 13.1

13 Next Steps… Are the results verified in the context of advance voting? (Australia) How about the impact on electronic voting – experiments Consequences in terms of voting arrangements, voters and children education, campaign organisation, etc.

14 Forthcoming elections Already conducted: Australia (2010), Sweden (2010), UK referendum (2011) And forthcoming…: New Zealand November 2011 (election + referendum) Russia January 2012 France May 2012 United States November 2012 Germany 2013 Israel 2013 … any many more Watch this space!!


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