Voters' decision making : An affective approach to politics

Student thesis: Master thesis (including HD thesis)

  • Philip hansen
  • Nick Hansen
4. term, Public Administration and Social Science (Master Programme)
In this thesis we investigate how affection can be seen as a relevant component in addition to the understanding of voter behavior in Danish electoral research. Looking to research on political parties we find that it contains this element do to marketing and mediatization trends, but there are references to affect effects within voting behavioral research itself. However, much of the contemporary electoral research is influenced by the view of the voter, as very rational, reflective and utility-maximizing. Based on the question: "To what extent can the affective factors contribute with explanations on voter behavior?", we attempt to examine what affect contains and how it is expressed.
Though political psychology, we seek to explain how affect can be expressed by the voters, by looking at its various forms and the premises it operates within. Based on this, we derived six dimensions, which we use to investigate the affect. Furthermore, it leads us to a new understanding of the interaction between political issues and voter behavior, namely that the affect stands out as an independent parameter, which though the interaction with attitudes toward issues are to influence the election outcome.
To isolate affect empirically, we start with a traditional political match maker test, where a total of 47 respondents test their attitudes on political issues. Of these, we select seven respondents, who according to the test possess the closest match to the Danish Christian Democratic Party, and so therefore ought to vote for this party according to current issue voting theory.
With the informants, we conduct a lengthy interview, and an association exercise which is used to create a mind map. The interview is designed to uncover informants' affective statements, primarily through open-ended questions that reveal more about the underlying cognitive processes, also by comparing the informants’ responses to different topics such as their knowledge of the party's history, opinion on an election video, specific issues, etc. The association exercise and mind mapping is used to talk further in depth about the party and is in itself an element to identify unconscious rationales.

We find in the thesis that affect is expressed and it is a major contributor to the informants' understanding of the Danish Christian Democrat Party, thus not being voted upon. What within the framework of attitudes and image is a black box, can at least in part be explained by affect. This, we believe that we make plausible.
We find that, of the six dimensions of affect, we make the first five plausible from our empirical work. The sixth dimension, which deals with the importance of mood for voter behavior, we did not manage to empirically make plausible within our framework of time and resources. Thus we cannot say that the mood has no effect on voter behavior, on the other hand we have no evidence to reject this.
We can infer from our studies that affect has a meaning when it comes to opting out of the Danish Christian Democrats Party, as a party amongst other parties. Thus our studies centers on affect as contributor to opting out. We cannot say anything on the strength of affect has a factor to willfully opt another party. However we believe that the theoretical framework does make room for this possibility, but requires new and expanded studies to confirm this assertion.
Publication date29 Jun 2012
Number of pages107
ID: 65533723