Attribution of responsibility
jamestilley
Posted 3/6/2008 14:20 (#39)
Subject: Attribution of responsibility


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Posts: 2

General points
We suggest the retention of one existing question regarding changes to the economic situation and the inclusion of one extra question that relates to the attribution of responsibility for any economic changes. The purpose of including these questions relates to two distinct strands of literature: the first looks at the effect of clarity of responsibility on the ability of voters to hold governments to account. The second strand of literature considers the second-order nature of EP elections. Including these two questions will allow the research community to address questions that are highly salient in two sets of literatures. First, to examine the relationship between government characteristics and perceptions of responsibility. Second, to examine how voters assign responsibility in the complex multi-level system of the EU, and how this assignment influences evaluations of national and European governance.

On the first of these points, while there is much work on how economic voting is affected by system contextual factors (Powell and Whitten 1993, Hellwig 2001) what is lacking is a rigorous study of how individual voters’ perceptions of responsibility are affected by differences in their governments. With this question the EES voter survey data could be used to relate economic policy performance attribution, government context (government status, number of parties, party cohesion) and individual voter attributes (left-right ideology, identification with parties in government).

On the second of these points, although the policy areas that are partly or wholly decided at the EU level have considerably expanded over the past decades, there has been little research investigating whether citizens realize the degree to which policy decisions that affect their day-to-day lives are now taken in Brussels rather than at the national level (see Sinnott 1995). One purpose is to simply try and accurately gauge citizens’ perceptions of where power lies: at the European or at the national level. Another purpose is to see how these perceptions affect vote choice at an EP election. It is generally taken to be the case that EP elections are ‘second-order national elections’, that reflect the standing of the national political parties at that time, with vote choice primarily decided by domestic political concerns (see Reif and Schmitt 1980; van der Eijk and Franklin 1996; Hix and Marsh 2007). If this is the case then policy performance and attribution of responsibility to national governments should be of primary importance in EP elections.


Previous EES voter surveys
Previous EES voter surveys have included the (standard) question on economic perceptions, but have not carried an item on responsibility for economic change. There have been questions regarding responsibility for dealing with respondents’ ‘most important problem’, but of course these depend on what respondents deem to be the ‘most important problem’.


Links with other aspects of the EES project
Hopefully these questions could be linked with part of the media study project. We anticipate cross-national differences: ‘second-order’ voting is likely to be more common in countries where the campaign focuses on the performance of the national government in comparison with campaigns that discuss policy-making at the EU-level (Hobolt et al. 2008).


Question wordings
The exact questions that we propose are a repeat of one question from previous EES voter surveys that asks about change to the general economic situation and a follow up question that asks about responsibility for those economic changes.

What do you think about the economy? Compared to 12 months ago, do you think that the general economic situation in this country: is ‘a lot better’, ‘a little better, ‘has stayed the same’, is ‘a little worse’ or is ‘a lot worse’

Do you think this change to the economic situation was: ‘was due mainly to European Union policy’; ‘was due mainly to the [COUNTRY] government policy’ or ‘was not really due to government policy in either [COUNTRY] or in the European Union’?


The second question is a modification of a similar question that appeared on the British Election Study in 1997 and the Irish Election Study in 2002. It is also very similar to the question used by Rudolph (2003) when investigating attributions of responsibility in the US.


Sara Hobolt (University of Oxford)
Michael Marsh (Trinity College Dublin)
James Tilley (University of Oxford)



Edited by jamestilley 3/6/2008 14:24
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SaraHobolt
Posted 16/7/2008 17:15 (#109 - in reply to #39)
Subject: RE: Attribution of responsibility




Posts: 26
25
Location: University of Oxford, UK
Dear James and Michael,

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

What do you think about the economy? Compared to 12 months ago, do you think that the general economic situation in this country: is ‘a lot better’, ‘a little better, ‘has stayed the same’, is ‘a little worse’ or is ‘a lot worse’
Ranking: 1

Rationale: This item is already included as part of the core survey because it is comparable across time.

Do you think this change to the economic situation was: ‘was due mainly to European Union policy’; ‘was due mainly to the [COUNTRY] government policy’ or ‘was not really due to government policy in either [COUNTRY] or in the European Union’?
Ranking: 2

Rationale: This item may be included with rephrasing.


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.

Yours sincerely,


Mark Franklin
Chair of the PIREDEU Steering Committee

Sara Hobolt
Deputy Chair of the PIREDEU Steering Committee








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