Public Choice

, Volume 176, Issue 1–2, pp 267–296 | Cite as

Multidimensional incongruence and vote switching in Europe

  • Ryan Bakker
  • Seth Jolly
  • Jonathan Polk


Does ideological incongruence hurt parties in elections? Research on the representational relationship between parties and voters suggests that ideological congruence can boost a party’s electoral prospects. However, while the mechanism is at the individual-level, most of the literature focuses on the party-level. In this article, we develop a set of hypotheses based on a multi-issue conception of party-voter congruence at the individual-level, and examine the electoral consequences of these varying congruence levels in the 2014 European Parliament elections. Consistent with our expectations, comparative analysis finds that ideological and issue-specific incongruence is a significant factor in voting behavior in the European Parliament elections. Although the substantive effects of incongruence are understandably small compared to partisanship, government, or EU performance evaluations, party-voter disagreement consistently matters, and voters’ issue salience is an important moderator of the impact of incongruence on vote choice.


Parties Elections Incongruence European Union 



We thank Keith Poole, Howard Rosenthal, Jan Rovny, Sara Hobolt, Ann-Kristin Kölln, and Jim Adams for helpful comments and criticisms on earlier drafts of this article, along with the anonymous reviewers at Public Choice. We would also like to thank the discussants and panels at the 2016 Midwest Political Science Association annual meeting, the 2016 European Political Science Association annual meeting, and the 2016 American Political Science Association annual meeting. Finally, we are grateful to the European Election Studies and Chapel Hill Expert Survey teams.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.Syracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA
  3. 3.University of GothenburgGothenburgSweden

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