Democratic Discontent and Support for Mainstream and Challenger Parties: Democratic Protest Voting

The literature disagrees over the extent to which defection from mainstream parties and support for challenger parties is related to individuals’ discontent with the functioning of democratic political systems. This article develops the democratic protest voting model, a theoretical framework to analyze how different forms of democratic discontent relate to the chance of defecting from mainstream parties and supporting left- and right-wing challenger parties. The empirical results reveal that voters tend to support parties that are aligned with the specific nature of their democratic discontent. These results imply that voting for challenger parties should not be conceptualized as a mere expression of protest decoupled from political preferences, but as a process of democratic protest voting that is informed by normative democratic preferences.

Forthcoming in European Union Politics

 

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