Reinermann, Holger ORCID: 0000-0001-8628-0960 (2020). The Only Way is All the Way? The Dimensionality of Party Competition and the Functionality of the Left-Right Dimension as an Information Shortcut for Voters. PhD thesis, Universität zu Köln.


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This dissertation deals with a puzzle posed by how party competition and electoral behavior unfold in modern democracies: While voters are commonly thought of as relying on rather simple decision heuristics - one of them the left-right dimension - patterns of party competition, in many contexts, exhibit considerable levels of complexity. This seems to create a problem with regard to the left-right dimension: if parties compete in a multidimensional space, a single dimension should not function very well as a decision guide. I engage with this conundrum by posing three interrelated research questions: If parties compete such that their political offers cannot be summarized by a single dimension anymore, can voters still use that dimension as a reference? If they can, how exactly do they do it? Lastly, if voters decide by a unidimensional schema, how can we adjust the spatial model to reconcile this with multidimensional party competition? Based on findings in the literature and in the dissertation itself, I conclude that left-right still performs rather well as a voter heuristic. The solution I propose here for how it does that is `idiosyncratic unidimensionality', which means that each individual has a unique idea of left-right, and ignores or reinterprets issues that cross-cut this pattern. Chapter 2 and 3 examine the functionality of left-right in the face of multidimensional party competition - the former with observational, the latter with experimental data. Chapter 4 (prepared in cooperation with Berta Barbet) broadens the picture and looks at the implications of party system dimensionality for the quality of democratic representation. Chapter 5 combines the preceding chapters' findings with other conceptual and theoretical insights discussed in this dissertation and puts them to a sort of `theoretical consistency test' in an agent-based model. Kapitel 5 mit freundlicher Genehmigung von Springer Nature / Chapter 5 with kind permission by Springer Nature.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD thesis)
CreatorsEmailORCIDORCID Put Code
URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:38-542977
Date: October 2020
Language: English
Faculty: Faculty of Management, Economy and Social Sciences
Divisions: Faculty of Management, Economics and Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Political Science > Cologne Center for Comparative Politics
Subjects: Social sciences
Political science
Uncontrolled Keywords:
left-right dimensionUNSPECIFIED
party competitionUNSPECIFIED
voter behaviorUNSPECIFIED
Date of oral exam: 22 March 2021
NameAcademic Title
Kaiser, AndréProf. Dr.
Kroneberg, ClemensProf. Dr.
Refereed: Yes


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