Data Set Description for Chapter 5: The European Election Study
Data Exercise Contributor: Jens Wäckerle
Post-election surveys designed by political scientists are a common instrument to learn more about vote choices in democracies. This applies also to European Parliament elections. There have been European Election Studies for every EP election since 1979. European Election Studies have multiple components, including voter studies (a general population survey after the election), Euromanifesto studies (analyzing the manifestos on which the parties are running), elite studies (Surveying candidates and members of the European Parliament), media studies (analyzing television and newspapers across Europe) and a social media study that focused on the Twitter activity of European party elites. You can find all datasets and descriptions here. Not all studies are run for every election.
We will focus on the Voter Study, particularly the 2019 version which was conducted by Wouter van der Brug, Sara Hobolt, Sebastian Adrian Popa, Hermann Schmitt, Eftichia Teperoglou, Ilke Toygur, Claes de Vreese and Catherine de Vries. We present the dataset below. While reading, please keep in mind the questions you see below and answer them once you reached the end. At the end, we will provide a link to a platform with an interactive version of the dataset and additional tasks.
|What issues were important for voters in the 2019 European election?|
|Are voters generally ideologically aligned with the parties they vote for?|
|Do voters exhibit a coherent belief system or are their political positions unrelated to each other? How does this compare to how parties are structured ideologically?|
The European Election Study records the standard demographic variables. Table 2 shows an overview for ten respondents in Germany. Age is recorded as the year of birth, education as age the respondent left education and the left-right position of the respondent on a scale from 0 (=Left) to 10 (=Right).
|1963||Female||20 + (=“High”)||Self-employed||Germany||3|
|1957||Male||16-19 years (=“Medium”)||Retired||Germany||2|
|1967||Male||20 + (=“High”)||Retired||Germany||4|
|1977||Female||16-19 years (=“Medium”)||Employed||Germany||6|
|1950||Female||16-19 years (=“Medium”)||Retired||Germany||6|
|1954||Male||16-19 years (=“Medium”)||Retired||Germany||5|
|1979||Male||20 + (=“High”)||Employed||Germany||6|
|1953||Female||20 + (=“High”)||Retired||Germany||Don’t Know|
|1979||Male||still studying||In school||Germany||4|
|1999||Male||still studying||In school||Germany||3|
Similar to the Eurobarometer data in the dataset presentation of the previous chapter, we can plot the average left-right position of respondents. Figure 1 shows a similar result to the Eurobarometer study: Respondents in Spain, Malta, Croatia, Protugal and Luxembourg consider themselves more to the left and respondents in Romania, Estonia, Bulgaria and Latvia more to the right. Differences between the Eurobarometer and European Election Study results can be due to sampling (one of them might for example oversample right-wing voters in some countries), randomness or due to different survey dates (although in this case both surveys are conducted right after the 2019 election).
Issues and Government Evaluation
The EES asks respondents what the most important problem in their respective country is and which party they believe to be the most competent at solving that problem. Additionally, the survey asks whether the respondents approve of the government’s political performance and whether the respondent is close to any party. Table 3 shows the same respondents from Germany as before. Several respondents mention climate change (“Klimawandel”,“klimaschutz”) and see the Greens and the Pirate Party as the most competent party to deal with it. Other voters mention saving democracy (“Bewahrung der Demokratie”), integrating migrants (“Integration der Migranten”), immigration (“Einwanderung”), unemployment issues (“arbeitslosigkeit”) and pressure from the political right (“Rechtsdruck”). Other respondents list several issues that they see as important.
|Klimawandel||Die Grünen||Disapprove||Grüne||Die Grünen||Nein, ich stehe keiner Partei nahe|
|Bewahrung der Demokratie||SPD||Approve||SPD||SPD||SPD|
|Integration der Migranten||Die Grünen||Approve||Grüne||Die Grünen||Die Grünen|
|Klimawandel||Piraten||Disapprove||Piraten||Piraten||Nein, ich stehe keiner Partei nahe|
|Einwanderung||none of the parties||Disapprove||Did not Vote||Did not Vote||Nein, ich stehe keiner Partei nahe|
|Klima ausreichend geschulte Arbeitskräfte zu haben||Don’t know||Approve||NA||NA||Nein, ich stehe keiner Partei nahe|
|Mietpreisexplosion + Flüchtlingskrise + Wirtschaftsniedergang||none of the parties||Disapprove||other party||Other party||Nein, ich stehe keiner Partei nahe|
|Rechtsdruck||Die Linke||Disapprove||Grüne||Did not Vote||Die Grünen|
Let’s examine the variable “Most Important Problem”. Answers for each country are provided in that country’s language, and we can look at what words are used by voters in different countries. Figure 2 shows the most important problems for UK voters. Not surprisingly for the 2019 European Parliament election in the UK, Brexit was the most important issue for voters. Figure 3 shows the same plot for Irish voters. While Brexit was also on their mind, other issues such as climate change, health and homelessness were also important issues.