CONSISTENT CHOICE AT THE BALLOT BOX: PERCEPTIONS THAT MATTER IN LATVIA AND ESTONIA
Distribution of parties along the left-right continuum historically has been the issue of coalition stability, governmental accountability and even stability of political system. Left-right spectrum is widely used in comparative research as a guide between voters and politicians making easier to understand political preferences.
The focus of this study is to test 1) whether the left-right continuum is evident and meaningful in Latvia and Estonia 2) whether voters have fairly accurate perceptions of parties’ left-right positions in Latvia and Estonia and whether they vote according to their self-placement on left-right scale, 3) whether voter’s self-placement can be explained by individual socioeconomic (income, education, position in work place) status or ethnolinguistic belonging (ethnic group, conversation language at home, conversation language in childhood, ethnic belonging of mother and father). Data on basis of voter analysis was obtained from EU Commission Funded FP6 EUREQUAL project (PI Professor Stephen Whiteﬁeld, University of Oxford), “Social Inequality and Why it Matters for the Economic and Democratic Development of Europe and its Citizens: Post-Communist Central and Eastern Europe in Comparative Perspective” Data on party each placement is gathered by the authors.
Results show that voters have fairly accurate perceptions of the left-right position of parties or at least the position where party representatives place each party, supposing that voters chose the closest party to one’s self orientation at the ballot box. Nevertheless the determinants of self-placement are not very clear as only in Latvia education, personal income and position at work inﬂuence the self-placement of the respondents while no coherence of social economic status was observed in Estonia. Also inﬂuence of ethnolingustic factors was observed neither in Latvia, nor Estonia, though both nations are considered as one of the ethnically most divided societies in Europe.