The protest vote prevails when a landslide victory is expected

November 18, 2011
The protest vote prevails when a landslide victory is expected. Credit: SINC

Researchers at the Juan March foundation and the Duke University (USA) have analysed the reason for casting a protest vote as a way of expressing unhappiness with a party during elections. Moderate voters are more likely to vote in this way than those at the extreme left or extreme right of the political spectrum.

Daniel Kselman, researcher at the Juan March Foundation and co-author of the study that analyses such behaviour states that "the protest vote is just a way of expressing discontent. In order for it to be effective, a lot more from your party need to vote for other. However, if there are enough people casting the protest vote, strategic changes need to be adopted or previously ignored political questions need to be faced."

The authors of the study created a probabilistic model that allowed them to distinguish between "strategic voters", who vote for a party despite it not being their favourite because their first choice has no chance of winning, and "protest voters", who choose another party purely to 'punish them' even though they have a chance of winning.

Kselman points out that "protest voters show their by voting for a party either more to the right or more to the left of the political spectrum than their in the hope that a rise in votes for the competition will encourage their own party to go in one direction or another."

According to the results of the study, when ideological voters are unhappy, they simply abstain from voting. Furthermore, the protest vote is more likely during elections in which it is hope that a party will win by a landslide victory.

The expert explains that "this applies to the current situation in where many believe that the People's Party (PP) will gain an absolute majority. Since there is likely to be a landslide victory in the upcoming elections this Sunday, we expect to see many protest votes from traditional Socialist Party (PSOE) voters, whether for the PP or other parties. This does not mean that they are changing their party preference because they can in fact vote for the PSOE again in the next elections."

As a result, such voting behaviour will increase the diversity of a party and could also help to strengthen smaller parties. Kselman concludes that "sometimes smaller parties begin to receive the majority of their support through protest votes. Consequently, when building up an independent following of their own, such support allows them in time to become significant and important political forces. Therefore, the protest vote could allow new parties to enter mainstream politics."

Explore further: Probing Question: Is the Electoral College an outdated system?

More information: Daniel Kselman, Emerson Niou. "Protest voting in plurality elections: a theory of voter signaling", Public Choice 148 (3): 395-418, 2011. DOI 10.1007/s11127-010-9661-2

Related Stories

Why New Political Parties Sizzle or Fizzle

August 4, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Across the globe, new political parties, from green parties to anti-immigration parties, are constantly emerging in democratic countries. But while some of these nascent single-issue groups fade away, others, ...

Recommended for you

Fossil specimen reveals a new species of ancient river dolphin

September 1, 2015

The careful examination of fossil fragments from Panama has led Smithsonian scientists and colleagues to the discovery of a new genus and species of river dolphin that has been long extinct. The team named it Isthminia panamensis. ...

Early human diet explains our eating habits

August 31, 2015

Much attention is being given to what people ate in the distant past as a guide to what we should eat today. Advocates of the claimed palaeodiet recommend that we should avoid carbohydrates and load our plates with red meat ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.