Could modern politics be explained by behavioralism?

Election research

1. Election research (WF) deals with the phenomenon of election, the most general and simplest form of → political participation and one of the basic requirements of modern → democracy from a wide variety of aspects. The main focus of the WF today is:

(1) Analyzes of the electoral law, the electoral process, the electoral system from the perspective of law and → political science. This involves the design of electoral principles, problems of party competition, the → election campaign, the financing and costs of the electoral process, and the → electoral system and its effects on the distribution of political power (cf. Nohlen 2009).

(2) Investigations into the determinants of individual participation in elections, through political / electoral sociology and political psychology. At the center of the research interest of this branch of the WF is the question: Who chose whom / what and why? It is about the analysis of attitudes, behavior patterns and motives of the individual voter and about what prerequisites, conditions, influences his voter participation and voting are subject to, what consequences they trigger (cf. Bürklin / Klein 1998; Broschek / Schultze 2006).

(3) Analysis of elections from the point of view of communication science and socialization research. It is not only about the role of the media in the electoral process, but also about the importance of elections as an act of communication and mediation of politics, the importance of elections in the process of lifelong learning, elections as a ritual and symbolic politics. WF in such a comprehensive understanding is multidisciplinary and is practiced by the majority, if not the entire spectrum of the social sciences, using specific methods and theories. Knowledge interests and research goals vary accordingly.

2. In a narrower sense, WF means the analysis of voter behavior (WV). In this electoral sociological understanding, WF deals with the description, explanation and prognosis of individual voter decisions, the distribution of party, candidate and material preferences in the electorate as a whole, as well as in politically relevant social, cultural, territorial (sub) units within the electorate . Structural and situational determinants of the WV are examined. The structural determinants include the social structure, the political (institutional) system, the structure of the public on the macro level and the anchoring of the voter in their primary and secondary environments, in social and cultural milieus and in social organizations. The situational influences include the conditions of party competition, the number and prospects of party / candidate alternatives, issues of current politics, the election campaign, etc. The personality factors include permanent attitudes, norms, behavioral patterns acquired in the socialization process, among others. political culture, social value orientations, and party identification counted.

2.1. Explanatory approaches. Theoretically, one can distinguish between approaches that emphasize the social determination of voting (expressive theories of voting) and those that are based on the rational behavior of the voter (instrumental theories of voting), as well as between the group approach and the individual identification approach (see Broschek / Schultze 2006).

2.2 Expressive theories of voting, such as the sociological reference group approach that was first formulated by the Columbia School of the US-American WF (Lazarsfeld et al. 1969), take the social structure and long-term anchoring of the voter in a few basic conflicts - class or context ties and milieu attachment , Group memberships (from the family to large social groups), affective (party) ties - which manifest themselves in political behavior and especially in voting. Background social variables such as income, economic status or social class, occupation, denomination, city - country (index of political predisposition) serve to identify social groups that have recognizable voting norms. The involvement of voters in primary and secondary environments, in social and cultural milieus, also determines political attitudes towards factual issues, candidates and parties. And it is assumed that the WV is more constant, the more tightly connected the social and / or cultural milieus, the stronger the group ties, and the more uniform the information conveyed by opinion leaders is. Behavioral instability, apathy and alternation, on the other hand, are explained with cross-pressure situations. B. is exposed by belonging to different and politically conflicting organizations. Through group membership and milieu affiliation, the relationship to the overall social conflicts is established. With S. M. Lipset and St. Rokkan (1967), the WF generally assumes four main social conflicts (cleavages). In the course of nation-building, the conflicts of (1) center versus periphery - or dominant versus subject culture (ethnic, linguistic, cultural conflicts) and of (2) state versus church (conflicts of secularization, state versus church control in the education system to to conflicts about norms in everyday life, e.g. in the family, marriage [...]); in the process of the industrial revolution the conflicts of (3) city versus country (agricultural interests versus industrial interests) and (4) capital versus labor. At the center of the cognitive interest of the sociological reference group as well as other approaches of the expressive theory of voting is microsociologically the question of the constancy of individual WV and macro-political that of the long-term system stability of liberal → democracies.

2.3 The Michigan School's socio-psychological identification approach, on the other hand, is about changing party preferences and about causes of short-term deviations from traditional WV (Campbell et al. 1967). He sees the individual WV defined in the area of ​​tension between party identification / affective party ties and current politics (normal vote versus actual vote). The reference point of the WV in the original concept of the "American Voter" is not the social groups and socio-cultural milieus, but rather the party with which one identifies as a long-term factor, as well as the attitude towards candidates and issues as short-term political influences. Acquired in the process of socialization and constantly updated through elections, the party identification acts like a filter that is structured for the perception and evaluation of political issues and events. Voters with strong party identification adopt the factual positions of "their" party more than those of their competitors, and they assess the candidates of "their" party much more positively than the competitors of other parties. These connections are usually explained with the psychological concepts of selective perception and cognitive dissonance: Consonance leads to constant WV; Dissonances cause changing WV, short-term deviations as well as long-term reorientations in the political attitudes and behavioral patterns of the voters. In macro-political terms, party identification is an important prerequisite for political stability.

2.4 Instrumental theories of voting see the voting act primarily and analogously to the market behavior of homo oeconomicus as the rational decision of the voter, whereby cost-benefit considerations control individual behavior (Downs 1968). Empirical-inductive approaches of this provenance interpret the electoral decision based on issue positions and candidate alternatives of the parties as a responsive or retrospective act in which the voter judges the achievements of the political elites in the past, in particular governments are confirmed or voted out, and / or the voter prospectively transfers power of attorney (cf. Fiorina 1981). With a view to the importance of factual topics for the WV, the following is important: (a) For issues to be effective, two prerequisites must be met. The issue must be perceived as significant by the voters and it must be contentious between the parties. The so-called position issues (as opposed to valence issues) have an impact on the voter decision, i.e. issues on which the parties have opposing points of view, (b) It is less about the issues as such than about the ones to be expected individual effects and also less about the specific programs offered by the parties to solve a certain factual question, but more about the solution competence that the voters grant the parties, (c) domestic issues are usually given a higher priority by voters than foreign issues. Among them, the questions of economic development, job security and social security are consistently in the foreground in the industrial democracies; However, especially since the 1970s, the number of those voters who prioritize questions of the environment, individual freedom and self-realization as well as participation in politics, economy and society over other issues (materialistic versus post-materialistic values) has increased.

Source: Andersen, Uwe / Wichard Woyke (ed.): Concise dictionary of the political system of the Federal Republic of Germany. 7th, updated Aufl. Heidelberg: Springer VS 2013. Author of the article: Rainer-Olaf Schultze