Parties and voters in Iceland : a study of the 1983 and 1987 Althingi elections
This thesis analyses the 1983 and 1987 Althingi elections in Iceland, a micro state with rich literary and historical traditions, including the Althingi which Icelanders claim to be the oldest parliament in the world. Three theoretical approaches - a party identification approach, a rational approcah, and a social-structural approach - are used. A special effort is made to compare the Icelandic findings to voting behaviour in Norway and Sweden. Direct party switching (23% in 1983 and 36% in 1987) is shown to be the main reason for the major changes in election results, while the impact of new voters and mobilization and demobilization of voters was small. As in many European countries, voters often change party identification when they switch parties, thus limiting the usefulness of the party identification model. Nevertheless party identification, while weaker than in Scandinavia, serves to tie parties to voters, along with party membership, participation in primaries, and exposure to the press. In accord with a rational approach, Icelandic voters have a cognitive map of the party system along left-right lines, as is the case in Scandinavia. Most voters can rank the parties on a left-right continuum, which is related to party choice, like and dislike for the parties and party leaders, and voters' stance on issues. A left- right issue factor is by far most strongly related to party choice, as in Scandinavia, while an urban-rural factor on which the ranking of parties is different, reduces the correspondence between the left-right spectrum and vote switching. While issue voting in Iceland is high, it is lower than in Norway and Sweden. The thesis argues, that the main reason is that Icelandic parties offer less clear and stable alternatives in elections. Social-structural variables are generally weakly related to party choice. Class voting has decreased dramatically, and is much weaker than in Norway and Sweden. The thesis is based on the first election surveys in Iceland, conducted by the author. Three data sets are used, based on random samples from the National Register: from 1983 (N=1003), from 1987 (N=1745), and a 1983-1987 panel (N=67 8).