Kees Aarts, born in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, in 1959. Ph.D. from the University of Twente, Enschede. Associate Professor in Social Science Research Methods at the University of Twente, Enschede.
Fellow (1 September 2005 – 30 June 2006)
Research into electoral behavior has long recognized the potential of studying the different party positions on political issues in explaining voting behavior. Political issues occupy a central place in general theories of representative government, which propose that parties formulate platforms in relation to their issue positions and voters make up their minds about casting their vote as a result of these platforms.
However, almost all of the existing studies on voting by issue position analyze individual electoral behaviour and thus fail to take the impact of institutional variables, which are constant for any single election, into account.
The level of political polarization is a constant within a single election but can vary across different elections within a single country as well as across countries. Political polarization refers to the relative distance between the (major) parties with respect on the main issue dimension(s). The central aim of my research was to describe and analyze the relationship between issue-based voting and the polarization of the party system.
I achieved this by analyzing data from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) and from national election studies in Western Europe (notably the Dutch election studies) to clarify the nature of issue competition, and especially the role of contextual factors such as the level of political polarization at the time of the elections.