A Study of Economic Voting Behavior in a Multilevel Institutional Context
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] This dissertation extends previous scholarship on economic voting behavior and responsibility attribution to consider the contextual effects of multilevel institutions, specifically examining those within the European Union. It asks how voters assign responsibility for macroeconomic conditions when constructing their vote preferences in national elections, especially given that economic policy-making power is increasingly shifted away from national governments toward the supranational institutions that comprise the Economic and Monetary Union. Using micro-level survey data and macro-level government and election data for all EU member-states in 2004 and 2009, this dissertation uses a comprehensive quantitative analysis to evaluate the expectation that voters, in response to economic integration, reassign blame for macroeconomic outcomes from national to EU institutions. If electoral behavior then shifts accordingly, we can expect to find economic voting is weaker in more highly integrated states. The results from these statistical analyses indicate that the conditioning effects of multilevel institutional arrangements on economic voting varies according to individual-level characteristics, such as educational attainment and political knowledge. Among voters with more education and/or political knowledge, economic voting is weaker in EU countries that have furthered integration by adopting the euro, as compared to that in the less-integrated non-Eurozone member-states, which retain greater control over economic policies at the national level. This indicates that voters in the more educated/knowledgeable subgroup have reassigned blame for the economy, as expected. However, for lower levels of educational achievement and political knowledge, the findings offer no evidence that voters have adjusted blame assignment to account for the upward shift in economic decision-making power. This dissertation contributes to the existing research program on economic voting by extending the institutional focus to account for complex multilevel arrangements. It also advances our theoretical understanding about the contextual effects of institutions on voting behavior by demonstrating that this relationship is conditioned by individual-level traits.