We suggest the inclusion of a battery of four items to measure economic left-right values in the 2009 EES voter survey. The purpose of including these questions is twofold.
First, they will allow analysis of the role of economic values in predicting attitudes towards EU integration, a question of particular interest in the former communist states. Most notably, Rohrschneider and Whitefield (2006) argue attitudes to the free market are likely to be a much greater predictor of attitudes to integration among citizens who live in former communist states than among citizens in ‘western’ states. Specifically, it is argued that voters who lie on the economic right in post-communist states (i.e. voters with pro-free market views) will favour EU integration as they regard integration as cementing free market developments in the east. This argument about the greater salience of economic values as a predictor of attitudes to integration in the east than the west has not been systematically tested in the context of the whole, newly enlarged, EU. Inclusion of our suggested battery of economic left-right values questions would facilitate such a test.
Relatedly, it is commonly assumed that voters on the political extremes, the far right and the far left, in Western countries are particularly likely to be sceptical of EU integration (for example, Hooghe et al 2002). The addition of these questions would be an opportunity to properly test how economic values really affect attitudes towards the EU, in different country contexts, across both east and west.
Second, the economic values scale that is generated from these questions should play a very important role as a control variable in models of voting that are based on the EES data. Specifically, the EES data will be used, to a significant extent, to determine which aspects of EU-related attitudes predict voting behaviour in EP elections. It is likely that attitudes to aspects of EU attitudes will be non-trivially correlated with economic values. Thus, inclusion of economic values as a control will make more certain the independent or causal effect on voting of the particular EU-related independent variables under consideration.
Previous EES voter surveys
Previous EES voter surveys have included left-right self-placement. While this is extremely useful for examining party distance, it is not always entirely clear what self-placements are measuring, especially in a cross-national context (Knutsen 1995, 1998). In particular, left-right self-placements have been found to be differently related to measures of economic left-right values in the former communist states when compared with the rest of the EU. We suggest that given EU expansion the EES voter survey now needs need more objectively rooted ways of comparing left-right positions as set out here.
Links with other aspects of the EES project
These questions have clear relevance for the manifesto and media study parts of the EES project, as they will in essence be recording information on economic left-right positioning of parties and media content. With specific questions that relate to this dimension the three elements will be able to be linked.
The exact questions that we propose are as below and tap into the two main elements of left-right: economic redistribution and state intervention in the economy.
Please tell me whether and to what degree you agree with each statement, do you ‘strongly agree’, ‘agree’, ‘neither agree nor disagree’, ‘disagree’ or ‘strongly disagree’?
a) Ordinary working people get their fair share of the nation's wealth.
b) Private enterprise is the best way to solve [country's] economic problems.
c) It is the responsibility of the government to reduce the differences in income between people with high incomes and those with low income.
d) Major public services and industries ought to be in state ownership.
These are a subset of questions first developed in Britain by Evans and Heath (Evans et al 1996, Heath et al 1994), and subsequently used in cross-national surveys. Two questions address each element of left-right; one pair concerns redistribution and one pair state ownership. For each pair the direction of wording runs in opposite directions to increase validity. Questions are five point scales, so respondents are able to give a ‘non-opinion’ of not agreeing or disagreeing.
John Garry (Queens University Belfast)
James Tilley (University of Oxford)
Posted 10/6/2008 15:07 (#42 - in reply to #38) Subject: RE: Left-right
Great idea but I also think it would be a good idea to include the traditional question about placing parties on an eleven degree left-right scale (i.e. "One is often in politics talking about left- and right, where would you place party x-z on a such scale reaching from 0 to 10"). Especially since this question is included in earlier EES surveys. Hence, I think it would be a good idea to include it again and thereby continue the time series.
Posted 16/7/2008 17:03 (#102 - in reply to #38) Subject: RE: Left-right
Location: University of Oxford, UK
Dear James and John,
Thank you for submitting this proposal to the Open Forum. The PIREDEU Steering Committee met at the end of June to evaluate each of the proposals. We assessed them on the basis of whether they met the following criteria:
* An explicit argument about why the proposed question/coding category merited inclusion in one or more of the PIREDEU data components.
* An explicit argument about the conceptual and theoretical foundations of the question/coding category.
* An explicit case for how the question/coding category facilitates integration and linking of several data components. The PIREDEU Steering Committee preferred proposals that allowed for conceptual integration across the five data components (i.e. voter survey, candidate survey, media study, manifestos and contextual data).
* An explicit consideration of how the proposed question/coding category linked with questions/coding categories in past data collection efforts.
The PIREDEU Steering Committee favoured proposals that ensured over time and across instrument comparability. Moreover, given that the voter and candidate surveys can only contain a limited number of question items, priority was given to proposals with succinct question formats.
On this basis we ranked each question in the proposal as follows:
(1) The proposed item will be included in data collection instrument
(2) High priority proposal that will be included if space and time constraints permit
(3) Proposal can only be included if additional funding is secured
(4) Proposed item is not a priority
The item(s) from your proposal received the following ranking(s):
Instrument: Voter Survey
Rationale: The Steering Committee agreed to include additional questions capturing left-right and libertarian-authoritarian value orientations. The Voter Survey working group will determine the exact wording and number of questions.
Thank you again for your participation in this process. We hope that you will continue to use the Open Forum to comment on the questionnaires/codebook that will be posted online on the Forum in the autumn.
Chair of the PIREDEU Steering Committee
Deputy Chair of the PIREDEU Steering Committee