Elections and Voters

First edition

by Cees van der Eijk and Mark Franklin

Glossary of terms

Elections and Voters makes use of a specialized vocabulary, introduced progressively in the course of the book, in which the words and phrases that constitute this vocabulary are often italicized on their first occurrence. Generally these words are not specifically defined but are used in such a way as to make their meaning clear without formal definition. This may require readers to peruse considerable amounts of text in order to fully understand the use of a word. In this glossary we define the terms more succinctly, to help readers who are dipping into the book rather than reading it from cover to cover, and to help students who are reviewing their understanding of the text. Each term is accompanied by a page reference at which what we consider to be the most useful account of the term can be found. However, the glossary should be read in conjunction with the book's index, which lists all the passages in which the term is used, since the glossary definitions are often insufficient to capture all nuances of meaning. Importantly, the meaning of some terms is contested, as mentioned in the book itself, in which case this glossary describes how we use them in the book, obviously without any claim that other analysts of elections and voters would fully concur.

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Accountability (p. 123) – see also mandate. Requirement that office-holders be held responsible for their decisions and actions.

Administration (p. 40) – see also government. This is the American word for the executive that takes office following an election. Elsewhere this is generally known as a government, but in the US the government includes the legislative branch.

Age effect (p.16) – see also effect.. A change in people’s attitudes, orientations, preferences or behavior that results from the process of getting older.

Aggregate (p.12). The process whereby information at a lower level of analysis can be represented at a higher level of analysis, for example in terms of averages or percentages.

Aggregate characteristic (p.12) – see also characteristic. Feature of an aggregate entity such as an electorate or a country. These often relate to the composition of the aggregate entity.

Anti-system party (p.3). Type of political party whose espoused (or assumed) objective is to abolish fundamental institutions, such as competitive elections or political equality.

Attitude (p.16). Relatively stable orientation of a person towards an object such as a party, a policy, a politician, etc. Under appropriate circumstances attitudes influence behavior, and are often seen as one of the determinants of behavior.

Axis (p. 13) – see political dimension, left-right axis, liberal-conservative axis.


b-coefficient (p. 204) – see regression effect.

Ballot (p.4). The paper or electronic record of what vote was cast.

Bedrock support (p. 102) – see also party loyalist. Minimum level of support a party can expect from its most loyal supporters if it is unable to mobilize any additional votes.

Blocking minority (p.84) – see also consensus decision making. Minority group which, in a consensus system, can withhold approval for specific legislation or other government actions

Bureaucracy (p. 29) – see civil service


Cabinet (p. 23) – see also cabinet government, minister. Group of individuals appointed by the President (in a presidential system) or appointed by parliament (in a parliamentary system). The members of the cabinet direct the work of government departments (such as education or defense).

Cabinet government (p.31). The type of government found in a parliamentary system in which the elected parliament appoints a set of cabinet members known as ministers of which one, the leader of the cabinet, is known as the prime minister.

Cabinet members (p.23). The word we use to cover both the members of the President's cabinet in the US and also ministers in a parliamentary government.

Cadre party (p.3). Type of political party dominated by political elites and activists. Often established as a mass membership party but in which the leadership of the party has divorced itself from control by its members.

Campaign (p. 33) – see election campaign.

Campaign promise (p. 33) – see also election campaign. The policy proposals that parties and candidates undertake to implement (or try to implement) should they be elected.

Candidate (p.113). Someone who contests an election ('runs for election') generally in the hopes of winning the right to represent a constituency or district and/or a political party.

Candidate-centered election (p.5). Elections that focus on the candidates running for elective office rather than the parties that those candidates represent. Often said to be a feature of American elections.

Cartel party (p.3). A political party that benefits from its potential position as a government party through state finance and other advantages that it has obtained as a result of its frequent access to political power.

Catch-all party (p.3). A party that tries to appeal to a wide spectrum of voters by downplaying divisive policies and emphasizing its reputation for effectiveness, probity, and the like.

Ceteris paribus (p.112). Latin for 'other things being equal'.

Characteristic (p. 2) – see also individual c., party c., country c. The value taken by a variable for a particular individual, party, etc, e.g., a person is ‘female;’ a party is ‘center-left’. Also sometimes misused to apply to a set of alternative characteristics which together define a variable.

Choice (p.53) – see also preference. The party or candidate that an individual (intends to) vote for.

Civil service (p.320) – see also bureaucracy. Government departments supporting the work of members of the cabinet. In parliamentary systems the civil service contains policy-makers who act as aides to cabinet members but, in the US, cabinet members appoint their own aides.

Cleavage (p.92) – see social cleavage.

Cleavage politics (p. 92) – see also social cleavage, group loyalty, divisive issue. The political interactions that typify a political system with strong social cleavages.

Coalition formation (p. 36) – see government formation

Coalition government (p. 23) – see also single-party g, minority g. A government consisting of more than one political party, generally found in multi-party political systems.

Coalition program (p.75). See also government program. The list of policies that the coalition agrees to introduce while it is in government.

Cognitive dissonance (p.52). Psychological distress caused by information that runs counter to deeply-held preconceptions.

Cohort (p. 17) – see electoral cohort

Cohort effect (p. 17) – see progressive cohort e. An effect attributable to the specific period at which individuals enter the electorate. Such effects often mark out particular cohorts or group of cohorts whose members remain distinctive throughout their lifetimes.

Competition (p. 11) – see party competition.

Composition effect (p. 16) – see also period e, cohort e, age e. An effect associated with differences in the composition of aggregate entities like electorates.

Composition of the electorate (p. 16) – see also aggregate, composition effect. The make-up of the electorate in terms of the distribution of characteristics of its members, e.g., age-composition, religious composition, etc.

Competitive election (p.117). Election for which the outcome is not a foregone conclusion. Also free and fair election, irrespective of outcome or anticipated outcome.

Communication (p. 10) – see elections, media

Concentrated power (p. 83) – see also dispersed power, unitary system. Political power exercised by a centralized authority without power being devolved to other institutions.

Conference (p. 33) – see party conference.

Congress (p.29). The word used in the US for the legislative branch of government.

Consensual decision-making (p.83). Decision-making based on inclusive decision processes. We argue that this is different from consensus decision-making.

Consensus decision-making (p. 83) – see also blocking minority, majority rule. Decision-making based on unanimity or near-unanimity. Differs from consensual decision-making in advantaging status-quo policies because minorities can block policy change.

Constituency (p.28). The word often used in parliamentary regimes for what Americans would call a district. More generally, the population from which support for a party or candidate comes.

Constituency service (p.70). Work done by an elected representative or Member of Parliament intended to benefit members of his or her constituency or district. C.s. is characteristic of FPTP and STV systems, and is virtually non-existent in list-PR systems with large districts

Constraint (p. 56) – see also ideological constraint. Something that limits the variation we observe in practice to less than would be possible without constraint.

Convention (p. 33) – see party convention.

Correlation (p.95). Degree of relationship between two variables.

Costs of entry (p.28). Barriers to the formation of political parties or to the extent to which they can readily gain elective offices.

Country characteristics (p. 13) – see also composition effect. A characteristic that typifies particular countries, defining differences between them that give rise to variables at the country level.

Country leadership (p.143). Leaders of government parties. In consensual political systems; also leaders of major opposition parties.

Country level (p. 12) – see level of analysis.

Cue (p. 53) – see also reference group. An action or statement that serves to validate an issue position or policy proposal, helping people to choose between different policies without becoming informed about them, simplifying individual decision-making.


De facto (p.59). Latin for "as a matter of fact" or "in practice."

Dealignment (p. 183) – see also realignment. Reduction in the extent to which voters and parties find themselves aligned on the basis of longstanding loyalties.

Decision-making (p.42). The process by which individuals, parties, politicians and governments make choices between policy alternatives.

Demographic shift (p. 16) – see composition effect

Dependent variable (p.18). A variable when it is viewed as consequential on something else, as depending on an independent variable or variables.

Determinants of the vote (p.153) – see independent variables.

Deus ex machina (p.85). Latin for, literally, "god from the machine" but often misused (as we have done) as though the “ex” meant “outside” to mean a contrived intervention from outside a system which is otherwise self-contained.

Dimension (p. 14) – see political dimension

Democracy (p. 81) – see majoritarian vision, proportional vision.

Dimensionality (p. 215) – see also issue space. Number of distinct axes or dimensions along which salient political issues are organized in a given political system.

Directional voting (p. 168) – see also proximity voting.. A theory of party choice that supposes voters to be sensitive to the direction in which parties and politicians want to move public policy.

Discipline (p. 2) – see party discipline

Dispersed power (p. 83) – see also concentrated power. A political system in which multiple centers of power exist that all have to act together in order to make public policy.

District (p. 28) – see also constituency. The geographic area within which votes are counted in order to send one or more representatives to a legislature.

District magnitude (p.64). The number of representatives elected from a given district. In majority or plurality systems this number is generally one but, in proportional systems, this number determines the degree to which proportionality can be achieved. Larger districts can be more proportional.

Divisive issue (p. 160) – see also cleavage, valence issue. An issue or interest which arouses strong emotions and on which people disagree. Dynamic system (p.20). A system of variables in which changes in one variable cause changes in other variables that eventually feed back on the original variable, leading to a new round of changes. A dynamic system in a steady state is said to be in equilibrium.


Economic conditions (p. 198) – see determinants, events.

Effect (p. 16) – see also composition e., period e., cohort e., age e. A measured consequence for a dependent variable of changes or variations in independent variables.

Effective number of parties (p.28). One of the defining characteristics of a political system, this is a count of the number of parties corrected for their size, with small parties counting for less than large parties. Also known as fractionalization.

Election (p. 220) – see also first-order e., second-order e., national e., importance of e., learning The process by which voters collectively make the choice between parties and/or candidates for elective office.

Election campaign (p.145). Period during which parties and candidates attempt to mobilize their supporters to vote for them in an approaching election.

Election outcome (p.118). The result of an election in terms of which party or candidate won elective office or, more generally, in terms of the balance of political forces following an election, often measured in terms of the number of seats in a legislature controlled by each party.

Elective office (p. 4). The office taken by a winning candidate: This may be an executive office (e.g., President in the USA) for which only one person can be elected, or a representative office, (e.g., a seat in a Parliament or Legislature).

Electoral cohort (p.17). Group of individuals defined in terms of the year or years in which they first became eligible to vote in an election.

Electoral competition (p. 117) – see party competition.

Electoral institutions (p. 22) – see also proportional representation, majority e., plurality e., mixed member e. The rules according to which elections take place

Electoral mandate (p.207). A policy or set of policies that elected office-holders are said (or claim) to have been elected in order to bring into effect.

Electoral support (p.3). The extent to which votes are cast for a party or candidate, often expressed as a proportion or percentage of the total number of votes cast.

Electoral potential (p.195). The maximum support a party could enjoy if it were able to mobilize all of its potential support.

Electoral change (p.15) – see outcome, realignment, composition, generational replacement, period effect, long-term, short-term

Electoral participation (p. 48) – see also voting, turnout, habit. The act of casting a ballot.

Electoral utility (p.13). The notional benefit said that would accrue to an individual as a consequence of voting for a party or candidate.

Electorate (p. 12) – see also eligibility. Those persons (generally citizens) who are permitted to vote in an election by virtue of having the franchise.

Eligibility (p.56). Rules determining who has the franchise in a given country at a given time.

Elite (p.2). Politically most powerful or influential stratum of individuals in a political system, or in a party.

Elite party (p.3). Political party established to win votes for a group of party leaders, or political elite.

Enact (p.7). Legislate to turn a policy into law.

Epoch (p. 16) – see political epoch.

Equilibrium (p.80). A dynamic system that is at rest at the aggregate level, i.e., in a steady state.

Era (p. 16) – see political epoch.

Established democracy (p.xi). We define an established democracy as one in which free and fair elections have been conducted continuously at least for the adult lifetime of all voters.

European Parliament (p.24). The legislative assembly of the European Union. This institution does not give rise to a Parliamentary Government and so elections to this assembly are not first-order elections.

Event (p. 194) – see also period effect. Something that happens with political consequences in illuminating the need for policy change.

Executive (p. 23) – see also cabinet members. In a presidential system the executive consists of the president and the cabinet members appointed by him as well as those members of the civil service or bureaucracy appointed by these cabinet members. In a Parliamentary system the e. consists of the cabinet and the bureaucracy that is directed by the cabinet.


Factor analysis (p.157). Type of analysis used to identify dimensions in the political issue space.

First past the post (FPTP) elections (p.35). Elections (also known as plurality) elections in which the winner is defined as the candidate who wins more votes than any other candidate, even if these do not constitute a majority of votes cast.

First-order elections (p.22). Elections for national office that, directly or indirectly, determine the composition of the government (the executive). Also known as national elections.

Fractionalization (p. 28) – see effective number of parties

Fragmentation (p. 71) – see effective number of parties

Framing (p. 101) – see also media. The ability of news stories and editorials to "put a frame" around information, especially news, that strongly influences how that information will be interpreted.

Franchise (p. 47) – see also electorate, eligible. Definition of who is entitled to vote in a given election. The kind of groups excluded from the franchise vary by country and over time, and can include non-nationals, felons, women, and those who are not yet adult.


Generational replacement (p. 182) – see also cohort effect, progressive cohort effect. The manner in which cohorts of voters age and die to be replaced by new cohorts.

Generation (p. 11) – see political generation

Government (p. 23) – see executive, single-party g., coalition g., minority g.

Government department (p. 40). The branch of the civil service directed by the work of a cabinet member.

Government formation (p.39). The manner in which a government is formed. Especially relevant for a coalition g. whose identity is not determined by the election outcome.

Government office (p. 40) – see also elective o., executive o., legislative o. A position of responsibility in the government of a country.

Government party (p.80). A party holding or sharing government office.

Government program (p.75). The list of policies that a government promises to implement, often based on campaign promises.

Government responsiveness (p.5). Extent to which election outcomes bring new policies into being. Sometimes responsiveness is taken to include rational anticipation of election outcomes.

Government status (p.207). Status accorded to a political party that holds government office rather than being in opposition. Also a party-level variable that distinguishes between these two party characteristics.

Governing party (p. 39) – see government formation. A political party that controls a single-party government or is a member of a coalition government.

Gridlock (p.32). A term used mainly in the US for a stalemate in which no new policy can be adopted because a change in any direction is prevented by a blocking minority.

Group loyalty (p. 92) – see also cleavage politics, party loyalty. The bond that leads voters to support a political party established to represent the interests of a social group.


Habitual behavior (p. 49) – see also cohort, long-term change. Socialized behavior.

Heterogeneity (p.11). Extent to which effects of independent variables are different for different groups of voters, parties, countries, or any other object of study.



Ideological constraint (p.153). Link between policy preferences and ideological identification. Individuals whose attitudes are highly constrained are those whose issue preferences are connected in an ideologically consistent pattern.

Ideological identification (p.53). Extent to which individuals identify with an ideological position (left or right, liberal or conservative) such that they vote for parties espousing that ideology just as though they felt a loyalty to those parties.

Ideological representation (p.15). Extent to which parties stand for (and implement if possible) policies consistent with the ideologies that they espouse.

Ideology (p.53). A set of policy preferences that are connected in such a way as to deserve an ideological label, such as left or right, liberal or conservative.

Immunization (p.49) – see also habit, learning, socialization. Process by which repeatedly making the same choice renders any other choice increasingly unlikely

Implementation (p.32). The manner in which policy decisions and legislation are translated into actual action by a government.

Importance of elections (p.220) – see elections.

Inclusive decision-making (p.83). Decision-making in which minority parties and/or minority social groups are consulted and have their opinions taken into account, leading to what we call consensual government.

Incumbency advantage (p. 121) – see also change, swing of the pendulum. The supposed electoral advantages that accrue to a sitting government or politician.

Independent variable (p.18). A variable whose variance is used to explain variation in some dependent variable often providing an explanation for why the dependent variable behaves as it does.

Individual characteristic (p. 2) – see also party c., country c. A c. that typifies individuals, defining differences between them that give rise to variables at the individual level.

Individual level (p. 12) – see level of analysis

Individual responsiveness (p. 170). Extent to which voters are aware of government actions, especially in terms of new policies, and respond by changing their opinions about what policies are needed, or by changing their preferences for parties.

Institution (p. 21) – see also electoral institutions. Stable rules, procedures and patterns of interaction for the conduct of elections and government.

Interest (p.15). Confusingly, this word has two distinct meanings. It can be used to indicate willingness to pay attention and learn about something, as in 'interest in politics,' or it can suggest having a stake in some matter, as with an interest group.

Interest group (p.43). An organization dedicated to influencing the activities of government in order to further the interests and concerns of its members.

Issue (p. 34) – see also issue-voting, position issue, valence issue. A matter upon which the government could make public policy. Often an i. is divisive, in that it could be handled in different ways, giving rise to the possibility of different policies. Parties and interest groups often take different positions on any given divisive issue.

Issue salience (p.99). Importance of an issue as perceived by a particular individual. More generally the importance of different issues to voters in general.

Issue preference (p.12). Position taken on a divisive issue.

Issue space (p. 140) – see also spatial theory, dimensionality. Map-like representation of the way in which issues go together (or not) in the minds of voters or in the policies espoused by political parties.

Issue-voting (p. 98) – see also issues, ideological voting. Electoral choices made on the basis of voters’ preferences for the policies espoused by political parties or candidates competing for political office.



Leadership (p. 143) – see party leadership, country leadership.

Learning (p. 46) – see also media. The acquisition of knowledge and behavioral routines that have long-term relevance. A primary function of elections is to facilitate political learning.

Left-right axis (p. 13) – see political dimension, ideological representation, spatial voting.

Legislate (p.218). Enact a policy into law. What members of a legislature do.

Legislature (p.4). Chamber containing seats occupied by representatives elected to support a political party and/or promote particular policies.

Legislative seats (p.5). Number of positions available to be filled in a legislature.

Legitimacy (p. 225). Legal and/or traditional validation for a system of government, an authority or activity.

Level of analysis (p.12). Level at which analysis is conducted: the focus of any given theory of electoral behavior. Analyses can be conducted at the individual, party or country levels of analysis, and many more.

Liberal-conservative axis (p. 14) – see political dimension, ideological representation, spatial voting.

Life-cycle (p. 16) – see also age effect. Evolution of individual characteristics as people age.

Lobbying (p.40). Activity undertaken by business and other interest groups when attempting to influence government policies and legislation.

Long-term change (p. 189). Electoral change that can be anticipated on the basis of demographic shifts that have already occurred and which will work themselves out over time on the basis of generational replacement.

Loyalty (p. 49) – see party loyalty, group loyalty.


Malapportionment (p 66) – see also district magnitude. District boundaries drawn so as that the number of voters represented by a legislator is not equal in different constituencies. This may, but does not have to advantage a particular party or social group.

Major party (p. 132) – see also minor party. Political party with a realistic chance of winning the presidency in a presidential system, or of being the party of the prime minister in a parliamentary system.

Majoritarian electoral system (p. 63) – see also first past the post. Strictly, a majority electoral system, but in casual usage also covers plurality systems.

Majoritarian vision (p. 81) – see also proportional vision. Encompassing view of electoral democracy that emphasizes the benefits of winner-takes-all elections, especially in conjunction with concentrated power.

Majority rule (p. 214) – see also majority, consensual decision-making, consensus decision-making. One of the central elements of democracy.

Majority (p.7). More than half of something (of votes, of seats, of cabinet positions, etc.)

Majority electoral system (p 63). One in which a candidate is elected only by winning a strict majority of votes cast. Requires a run-off or second election between the two candidates who won most votes, if neither won an outright majority in a first round of voting.

Mandate (p. 5) – see electoral mandate

Manifesto (p. 10) – see party program

Mass membership party (p.3). A political party with a large membership, usually from a particular segment of society (e.g. class or religion), established to promote policies that are in the interests of its members. Such a party is generally highly organized and is particularly likely to enforce party discipline on its representatives.

Media (p.149). Television, radio, newspapers, magazines and other outlets for news, information and political debate.

Median voter (p.13). The notional voter positioned at the center of the issue space, such that there are as many voters to one side as to the other side of the m.v.

Member of Parliament (p. 121) – see also representative. Someone elected to fill a legislative seat in a Parliament.

Minister (p. 40) – see also prime minister. Member of a cabinet government.

Minor party (p. 27) – see also major party. A party with little prospect of achieving government status.

Minority (p.28). This word has two distinct meanings. Regarding democratic governance, a m. is less than 50 percent (of votes, of seats, etc.). Regarding social groups a m. is a group with characteristics distinct from those most prevalent in the society.

Minority government (p. 28) – see also single-party g., coalition g. A parliamentary government commanding less than 50 percent of seats in a legislature but enjoying de facto support from non-government parties.

Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system (p.66). Electoral system containing both majoritarian and proportional elements, generally providing each voter with two votes, one for a candidate seeking to represent the voter's district and the other a 'party vote' identifying the party that the voter prefers. A party receives top-up seats as needed to yield legislative seats proportional to the party votes it received.

Mobilize (p.100). Motivate potential supporters to become actual voters for a party or candidate.

Mood (p. 175) – see political mood.

Multiparty system (p.28). A political system with more than two parties capable of becoming members of the government.


National election (p.22). Election to a national legislature and/or for a country's presidency.

New democracy (p. 21) – see also established d., transitional d. A country in which democratic institutions are quite new (generally facing its first or second election).

Number of parties (p. 12) – see effective number of parties


Obfuscation (p.116). Giving confusing information intended to conceal actions and policies of a party or candidate.

Office (p. 1) – see government office.

Office-holder (p.5). An individual holding government office.

Office-seeking (p.15). Behavior of parties or candidates who appear to be willing to promote whatever policies may be attractive to voters in order to acquire their support and through this political office. The opposite of policy-seeking.

Ombudsman (p.122). Government office originating in Scandinavia to provide constituency services in countries that do not have a single representative from each district. More recently a term used for any office that handles public complaints and concerns.

Opinion leader (p.148). Someone whose ideas (generally expressed in the media) are influential. More generally, anyone who is influential among members of his or her circle of acquaintances.

Opposition parties (p.79). Parties not members of the current government.

Outcome (p. 118) – see election outcome

Output representation (p. 15) – see policy representation

Overlap in party support (p.195). The fact that the same voters may be mobilized to support different parties, implies that different parties have potential electorates that overlap.


Parliament (p.29). The word used in a parliamentary regime for the elected legislature.

Parliamentary government (p. 29) – see also parliamentary regime, cabinet government. Type of government in which executive power is held by a party (or coalition of parties) whose leaders are appointed by the parliament to be government ministers.

Parliamentary regime (p.29). Type of political system based on parliamentary government.

Parliamentary seats (p.5). Position in a parliament taken by an elected representative. Loosely, the number of seats occupied by a particular party.

Parliamentary system (p. 29) – see parliamentary regime

Parties in the electorate (p.13). The voter mobilization face of a political party, sometimes involving mass membership; generally involving party conventions or conferences.

Parties in the legislature (p.13). The legislative face of a political party, involving primarily its size in terms of seats, the extent of party discipline it maintains, and its relations with other parties.

Partisanship (p. 49) – see party identification

Party-centered elections (p.2). Elections in which parties rather than candidates are the most important actors. Generally these are systems with disciplined parties.

Party characteristic (p.2). A c. that typifies parties, defining differences between them that give rise to variables at the party level.

Party competition (p.11). Structure of competitive relations between parties. This structure may differ depending on what the object of competition is: votes, government office, policy, etc.

Party conference (p.33). Annual (sometimes bi-annual) meeting of party members held in parliamentary systems to determine the party line and select its leaders; a main function of the p.c. is to ensure that the party is ready to fight an election campaign.

Party convention (p.33). What Americans call a party conference. However, in the US these conventions are only held once every four years, and are sometimes seen as kicking off the presidential election campaign.

Party discipline (p.2). Ability of a political party to force its members in a parliament to adhere to the party line. Such discipline is usually lacking in the US Congress.

Party identification (p. 49) – see also split-ticket voting. Concept introduced to label the underlying psychological attachment that Americans may feel towards a political party. Also presumed to be an important source of selective perceptions and selective acceptance of communications found in all countries.

Party leadership (p.101). Political elite holding leadership positions within a political party.

Party level (p. 12) – see level of analysis

Party loyalist (p. 87) – see also bedrock support. Someone so deeply committed to a political party that he or she will vote for it under virtually any circumstances.

Party manifesto (p. 10) – see party program

Party position (p. 161) – see party policy

Party potential (p. 195) – see also electoral potential. The maximum vote a party could receive if it were to succeed in mobilizing all those who might vote for it.

Party preference (p. 194) – see also propensity to vote. Extent to which a voter regards a party as worthy of support. More generally the whole structure of preferences that a voter holds for different parties.

Party program (p. 10) – see also coalition program, government program. Policies that a party promises to introduce and/or support if it receives sufficient votes to become a government party.

Party responsiveness (p. 15). Willingness of parties to reflect the changing preferences of their supporters.

Party size (p. 104) – see also strategic voting. The proportion of seats in parliament that a party occupies.

Party supporter (p. 6) – see also party loyalist. Someone who plans to vote for a party (or has recently voted for a party), and who has a high preference for that party.

Party system (p. 12) – see also party competition. Structure of relations among parties that differ in size, ideology, policy programs, age, experience and leadership. Generally relates to differences between countries but, in the US, often refers to historical epochs.

Perception (p. 101) – see selective perception

Period effect (p. 16) – see also cohort e., age e. Effect felt because of an event, impinging on persons irrespective of their electoral cohort or age. When it refers to an effect on party preferences, a p.e. is felt mainly by those with low party identification. We argue that these are mainly young voters.

Personality (p. 56) – see also candidate-centered election. Things about a candidate that might lead voters to support that candidate regardless of their policy proposals.

Plurality elections (p. 63) – see also majority elections. An election in which the winner is the party or candidate that wins most votes, even if not a majority.

Polarization (p. 217). The extent to which a political system contains parties that are far apart in spatial or ideological terms.

Policy (p. 2) – see public policy

Policy representation (p. 15). The extent to which parties or candidates make public policy that reflects the desires and preferences of their supporters.

Policy reversal (p. 219). Change of policy that may follow the election of a president or government with a different party or ideological complexion than their predecessor.

Policy-centered elections (p. 44). Elections in which the main focus is on policy rather than personality. Generally a policy-centered election is also a party-centered election.

Policy-seeking behavior (p. 2). Attempt to mobilize support for particular policies rather than particular candidates, generally in party-centered elections.

Political activist (p. 3). Someone who founds or helps to organize a political party or works for a party or candidate seeking election.

Political elite (p. 2)– see also politician. The founders, leaders, and other prominent members of political parties. Also those who advise parties and governments or employ media outlets in an attempt to influence voters.

Political epoch (p. 16). Also known as an "era" in which certain political ideas are prominent. Often coincides with the ascendancy of a particular political party.

Political generation (p. 11) see also electoral cohort. Individuals reaching voting age during a particular political epoch

Political mood (p. 164) – see also change. Diffuse 'feeling of the times' thought to be responsible for the swing of the pendulum.

Political party (p. 1). An organization that exists to nominate candidates to run for office generally with the objective of influencing the policies enacted by government.

Political system (p. 2). Set of institutional and other arrangements defining the manner in which political power is distributed and used to govern.

Politician (p. 2). Member of the political elite who holds or aspires to elective office.

Politicize (p. 160). Make salient in a policy-relevant fashion.

Portfolio (p. 42). Technical term for the government department allocated to a cabinet member in a parliamentary regime.

Position issue (p. 167) see also valence issue. Divisive issue on which opinions differ as to what is to be achieved or what is to be desired; characteristically they involve choices for or against something (e.g., for or against abortion, nuclear energy, increasing the minimum wage, etc.).

Potential support (p. 195) – see electoral potential

Preference (p. 12) – see also choice, party preference, issue preference.

Presidential government (p. 29). Type of government in which executive power is allocated in an election separate from that which determines the political complexion of the legislature or Parliament.

Presidential regime (p. 29). A system of presidential government.

Presidential system (p. 29) – see presidential regime.

Pressure group (p. 43) – see interest group, lobbying.

Prime minister (p.3 0). Leader of a cabinet government.

Program (p.2) – see party program

Progressive cohort effect (p. 17). Cohort effect that does not lead to a steady state and instead cumulates over time because successive new cohorts have the same specific characteristic(s) that are different from those of older cohorts and which retain their distinctiveness throughout the life-cycle.

Promise (p. 38) – see campaign promise.

Promise fulfillment cycle (p. 38) – see short-term change, swing of the pendulum. The consequences for public opinion of the delay between policy enactment and the visible consequences of its implementation.

Propensity to vote (p. 50) – see also party preferences. A measure we employ of the extent to which voters are likely to support each of the parties in their political system.

Proportional elections (p. 63) – see proportional representation

Proportional electoral system (p. 82) – see proportional representation

Proportional representation (PR) (p. 63) – see also majoritarian systems, mixed member systems, district magnitude. Electoral system that gives legislative seats to parties in proportion to the shares of the votes those parties receive. The most proportional outcomes are found where the whole country constitutes a single district for purposes of allocating seats.

Proportional vision (p. 81) – see also majoritarian vision. Encompassing view of electoral democracy that emphasizes the benefits of elections conducted under proportional representation, especially in conjunction with dispersed power.

Prospective voting (p. 207) – see also mandate, retrospective voting. Voting choices motivated by the policies likely to be enacted by the winning candidate or party.

Protest voting (p.131). Voting for a party or candidate other than the most preferred party or candidate, in order to signal disapproval of some aspect of the policies of other parties –generally without actually wanting the party or candidate for which a protest vote was cast to win.

Proximity voting (p. 161) – see also spatial theory. A theory of party choice that supposes voters to be sensitive to the distance between the policies they prefer and those espoused by parties and candidates, preferring the party or candidate with the closest policies.

Public opinion (p. 147) – see also issues, preferences, mood, constraint, responsiveness. The distribution of opinions about political issues and policies at the level of the electorate.

Public policy (p.6). The plans that governments make for making or changing legislation and regulation in specific ways during their tenure in office.


R2 (p. 201) – see variance explained

Rational anticipation (p. 125) – see also retrospective voting. The attempt by governments to anticipate how voters will react to current policies at the time of the next election and adapt policies accordingly.

Realignment (p. 183) – see also dealignment. A long-term change in party support that increases the chances of some parties gaining and retaining government office while reducing the chances of other parties doing so.

Reciprocal cause (p. 20) – see reciprocal effect

Reciprocal effect (p.147). A causal pattern in which an independent variable is also affected by the dependent variable in a dynamic system.

Reference group (p.49). Interest group or group of individuals that provides cues to voters.

Regression analysis (p.200). Statistical method for measuring effects of independent variables on dependent variables.

Regression effect ((p.16). The effect estimated by means of regression analysis, often expressed as a b-coefficient.

Relationship (p. 30) – see correlation, effect.

Representation (p. 14) – see also social r., policy r., ideological r. A relationship between voters and those who are elected in which those who are elected try to further the interests of their voters.

Representative government (p.15). A type of government in which the interests and wishes of citizens are expressed by those who are elected by those citizens.

Representative (p.30). Someone elected to a legislature in order to represent the voters who elected her. In parliamentary systems these are known as Members of Parliament. In FPTP or STV systems, what is represented is also the district or constituency from which the representative comes. In other systems what is represented is primarily the party to which the representative belongs.

Responsible party model (p. 171) – see also thermostatic model, retrospective voting. A theory of representative government that assumes that voters are instrumental in their choice for a party, voting on the basis of parties’ policy proposals.

Responsiveness (p. 118) – see government r., party r., individual r.

Retrospective voting (p. 207) – see also prospective voting, responsible party model. A theory of voting that assumes voters choose between parties on the basis of their past policies and performance.

Run-off election (p.63). Election held to decide the winner in a majority system when no candidate won an outright majority on the first round.


Salience (p. 45) – see issue salience

Seats (p. 3) – see parliamentary seats, legislative seats

Second-order elections (p. 22) – see also first-order elections. Elections for offices other than national office that do not determine the complexion of national governments.

Selective acceptance (p.52). Subconscious mechanism that avoids cognitive dissonance by rejecting information running counter to current preconceptions.

Selective exposure (p.52). Avoidance of circumstances in which cognitive dissonance is likely.

Selective perception (p. 52) – see selective exposure, acceptance, retention

Selective retention (p.52). Subconscious mechanism leading people to forget information that would give rise to cognitive dissonance.

Short-term change (p. 56) – see also responsiveness, swing of the pendulum. Electoral change that is liable to be reversed after an election or two.

Significance (p. 200) – see statistical significance

Sincere preference (p.110). The party preferred on grounds other than strategic or tactical considerations. Generally a preference based on the policies espoused by a party, or on its perceived competence in government.

Sincere voting (p.110). Voting based on sincere preferences.

Single-party government (p.34) – se also coalition g. Parliamentary government consisting of a single governing party, generally the party that won a majority of the seats in that country's Parliament, but sometimes a minority government.

Smallest distance theory (p. 161) – see proximity theory

Social characteristic (p. 15) – see also social group. A characteristic inherited at birth or acquired during childhood that remains largely unchanging during adulthood. A s.c. can include race, class, age, gender, language, and religion.

Social cleavage (p. 3) – see also cleavage politics. A salient difference in objective political interests between social groups which has been politicized.

Social group (p. 7) – see also social cleavage, cleavage politics. Group of individuals defined in terms of social characteristics (e.g. class, religion, language, etc.)

Social representation (p.15). Type of representation in which the primary objective is to provide policies in accordance with the interests and preferences of particular social groups. Also: the extent to which the composition of a representative assembly (legislature) mimics the composition of society in terms of social divisions.

Socialization (p. 49) – see habit, immunization. Process by which individuals learn values, attitudes and behavior patterns, generally during childhood.

Spatial theories of voting (p.161). Theories that suppose a voter chooses between parties largely on the basis of either the proximity of their policies to those of the voter, or the direction of those policies in relation to the direction preferred by the voter.

Split-ticket voting (p. 138) – see also party identification. When elections for more than one office are listed on the same ballot or "ticket", split-ticket voting occurs when a voter supports one party for one office and a different party for another office.

Statistical significance (p.200). Probability that a relationship or effect is just happenstance, if this probability is sufficiently small (often less than one in 20, or 5 percent; sometimes less than one in 100) the relationship is said to be significant.

Steady state (p.16). When a dynamic system retains the same aggregate characteristics over time even though individual units in that system are changing. For example, age effects can yield an equilibrium if, at each age, the characteristics of a given electoral cohort are the same as those of other cohorts when they were (or will be) the same age.

Strategic voting (p. 104) – see also wasted vote syndrome. Party support that deviates from sincere voting because of strategic considerations – such as whether a party can realistically aspire to government status and thus hope to get its policies enacted.

Supporter (p. 6) – see party supporter.

Swing of the pendulum (p. 174) – see also thermostatic model. Tendency for parties that hold government office to progressively lose support and eventually lose office.


Tactical voting (p.109). Often seen as a synonym for strategic voting, we use t.v. to refer to party choice that takes account of the competitive situation in a specific district or constituency where a preferred party may have no chance of winning.

Tenure in office (p.47). Time during which a politician or party holds a political office.

Thermostatic model (p. 172) – see also responsible party model. The intuition that as policies are enacted so supporters of those policies become satisfied and cease to support further policies of the same kind, perhaps giving rise to the swing of the pendulum.

Threshold (p. 67). Number of votes needed to elect a single candidate in a proportional representation system.

Transitional democracy (p. 38) – see also new d.. We use this term to denote a democracy that has not yet had time for all its citizens to have experienced democratic conditions throughout their adult lives. However, in conventional parlance there is no clear point at which a transitional democracy becomes established.

Turnout (p. 6) – see voter turnout


Unit (p.12). Objects of study. May be countries, parties, or individual voters, depending on the level of analysis.

Unitary government (p.23). Sometimes this is taken to mean a single-party government, but more usually it means a government that enjoys concentrated power. Also: government of a unitary state without federal or confederal components.

Utility (p. 13) – see electoral utility


Valence issue (p. 166) – see also position issue. An issue which is not divisive but which instead elicits considerable agreement as to desired objective, though there may be disagreement about how to reach that objective.

Variable (p.18). Something that varies (shows variation) over time or between units or individuals.

Variance explained (p.95) – see also R2. Extent to which variation in a dependent variable can be accounted for by corresponding variation in independent variables.

Variation (p.77). Extent to which something varies.

Vision (p. 81) – see majoritarian v., proportional v.

Vote (p.59) – see also franchise. The choice made in an election to support a given party or candidate.

Voter (p. 12) – see also eligibility, electorate. Someone who casts a vote in an election. Sometimes used more loosely to describe anyone who is eligible to cast a vote, irrespective whether they actually do so.

Voter turnout (p.6). Rate at which those eligible to vote actually cast a ballot. Generally expressed as a percentage of registered voters, but in the US as a percentage of the eligible electorate, irrespective of whether they registered.

Vote-seeking behavior (p.2) – see also office seeking behavior. Behavior designed to maximize vote-share (whether to acquire government status or implement desired policies). Often involves emphasizing personalty and obfuscating or de-emphasizing policy differences.

Voting age (p. 47) – see eligibility.

Voting with the boot (p. 136) – see protest voting

Voting with the head (p. 135) – see strategic voting, tactical voting

Voting with the heart (p. 135) – see sincere voting

Wasted vote syndrome (p.37). Tendency of voters to avoid giving support to parties that would have difficulty acquiring elective office or achieving government office and hence enacting their policies.

Winner takes all (p.127). Type of election in which the candidate winning a plurality or majority of votes gains full control of the office for which the election was held – in contrast to proportional representation where control is split in proportion to votes cast.


X-variable (p. 245) – see independent variable


Y-variable (p. 245) – see dependent variable

Young voter (p.50). A voter who only recently reached the age of eligibility and is considered especially susceptible to period effects. We take young voters to be those facing one of their first three national elections (first three presidential elections in the US).