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A Decision Heuristic for Party Identification: New British and German Data and a New Understanding for a Classic Concept

Author

Listed:
  • Alan S. Zuckerman
  • Malcolm Brynin

Abstract

The concept party identification lies at the heart of much research on political preferences and behavior in established democracies. Drawing on data obtained from the British Household Panel Survey (1991-99) and the German Socio-Economic Panel Survey (1984-1998), we offer a fresh approach to the concept. Party identification is a stance that people take towards the political parties. They apply a consistent rule -a decision heuristic -persistently returning to the same preference year after year or behaving haphazardly, moving with no clear pattern among the choices. Most take a definitively negative stance towards one of the parties and a positive stance towards the other major party. Of these, about half display behavior that reflects a psychological commitment and about half are as likely as not to pick that party when asked. For most people, party identification is neither a loyalty, as conceived by traditional understanding associated with the Michigan -nor a calculated choice -as offered by rational choice theory -but a way to situate oneself persistently in relation to the relatively distant objects of politics.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan S. Zuckerman & Malcolm Brynin, 2001. "A Decision Heuristic for Party Identification: New British and German Data and a New Understanding for a Classic Concept," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 268, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwwpp:dp268
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    File URL: http://www.diw.de/documents/publikationen/73/diw_01.c.38629.de/dp268.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Norpoth, Helmut, 1984. "The Making of a More Partisan Electorate in West Germany," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 14(01), pages 53-71, January.
    3. repec:cup:apsrev:v:77:y:1983:i:04:p:957-973_25 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Kotler-Berkowitz, Laurence A., 2001. "Religion and Voting Behaviour in Great Britain: A Reassessment," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 31(03), pages 523-554, July.
    5. repec:cup:apsrev:v:73:y:1979:i:04:p:1071-1089_16 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Abramson, Paul R., 1992. "Of Time and Partisan Instability in Britain," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 22(03), pages 381-395, July.
    7. repec:cup:apsrev:v:85:y:1991:i:02:p:557-568_17 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. David Sanders & Malcolm Brynin, 1999. "The Dynamics of Party Preference Change in Britain, 1991-1996," Political Studies, Political Studies Association, vol. 47(2), pages 219-239, June.
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