Reif and Schmitt argued that elections to the European Parliament should be understood as second-order national elections, and advanced several predictions about the results of such elections. Those concerning the impact of government status, party size, party character and the national election cycle on electoral performance are examined here using data on four sets of European Parliament elections. In addition, the consequences of European Parliament elections for the next national election are explored. The analysis demonstrates the validity of most of Reif and Schmitt's original propositions, and further refines their analysis of the relationship between European and subsequent national elections. However, all propositions hold much more effectively in countries where alternation in government is the norm, suggesting that the distinction between first-order and second-order elections may not be so clear cut as Reif and Schmitt imagined.
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