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.

Table 1: General Tasks for the Dataset
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?

Dataset Description

Demographic Data

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).

Table 2: Demographics in the EES
Birthyear Gender Education Occupation Country Left_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).

Figure 1: Left-Right Self-assessment

Figure 1: Left-Right Self-assessment

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.

Table 3: Political Evaluations
Most_Important_Problem Competent_Party Government_record Vote_EP Vote_nat Closeness
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
klimaschutz Die Grünen Approve CDU/CSU CDU/CSU CDU/CSU
Einwanderung none of the parties Disapprove Did not Vote Did not Vote Nein, ich stehe keiner Partei nahe
arbeitslosigkeit CDU/CSU Disapprove CDU/CSU CDU/CSU CDU/CSU
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.

Figure 2: Most Important Problems for UK Voters

Figure 2: Most Important Problems for UK Voters