Leader or party? Quantifying and exploring behavioral personalization 1996–2019

Stephen Quinlan*, Ian McAllister

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    12 Citations (Scopus)


    It has become almost a truism that parliamentary elections have become more personalized. However, evidence for this proposition among voters is relatively mixed and we lack a quantification of leader inspired voting. Using data from Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) project and consistent measures of leader and party popularity across 86 parliamentary elections in 31 polities between 1996 and 2019, we break new ground in the study of behavioral personalization in several respects. First, we provide a consistent and longitudinal test of leader inclined voting, separate from party evaluations, in the form of a vote-leader/party favorite alignment index. Our results show 6% of voters align their vote with their favorite leader solely, and one in five voters align their vote primarily with their favorite leader. While significant, more voters align their vote with their favorite party. Second, we find that leader motivated voting is most prevalent among non-partisans, older voters, and in elections where ideological polarization is low. Third, we demonstrate that voters solely motivated by leaders are most likely to switch their votes between elections. Our results have implications for our understanding of leaders’ impact on elections.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)24-37
    Number of pages14
    JournalParty Politics
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


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