Skip to main content Accessibility help

Sorting between and within coalitions: the Italian case (2001–2008)

  • Matthew Edward Bergman (a1)


How do voters sort within an electoral coalition? Voting literatures on ideology, character valence, and issue ownership provide explanations for inter-coalition or inter-party voting, yet the coalition context remains understudied. Do voters in proportional coalition-based systems use the same ideological and issue-based heuristics ascribed to them in two-party systems that favor single-party government? Voting behavior in Italy in the 2000s is used to explore this question. This paper examines what motivates the voters of the large center-left and center-right coalitions, specifically whether ideology, economic issues, or other considerations lead voters to select their party of choice. Results indicate that, on average, voters select a coalition ideologically-proximal and deemed the more competent on issues, while they select a specific party based upon character and reputation issues. Findings thus suggest that voters sort for both coalition and party-specific reasons.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Sorting between and within coalitions: the Italian case (2001–2008)
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Sorting between and within coalitions: the Italian case (2001–2008)
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Sorting between and within coalitions: the Italian case (2001–2008)
      Available formats


This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

Corresponding author. Email:


Hide All

Current address: Department of Government, University of Vienna, Rooseveltplatz 3, 1090 Vienna, Austria



Hide All
Abney, R, Adams, J, Clark, M, Easton, M, Ezrow, L, Kosmidis, S and Neundorf, A (2013) When does valence matter? Heightened valence effects for governing parties during election campaigns. Party Politics 19, 6182.
Abou-Chadi, T (2016) Niche party success and mainstream party policy shifts – how green and radical right parties differ in their impact. British Journal of Political Science 46, 417436.
Adams, J (1999) Policy divergence in multicandidate probabilistic spatial voting. Public Choice 103, 103122.
Adams, JF, Merrill, S III and Grofman, B (2005) A Unified Theory of Party Competition: A Cross-National Analysis Integrating Spatial and Behavioral Factors. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Adams, J, Clark, M, Ezrow, L and Glasgow, G (2006) Are niche parties fundamentally different from mainstream parties? The causes and the electoral consequences of Western European parties’ policy shifts, 1976–1998. American Journal of Political Science 50, 513529.
Adams, J, Green, J and Milazzo, C (2012 a) Has the British public depolarized along with political elites? An American perspective on British Public Opinion. Comparative Political Studies 45, 507530.
Adams, J, Ezrow, L and Leiter, D (2012 b) Partisan sorting and niche parties in Europe. West European Politics 35, 12721294.
Adams, J, Ezrow, L, Merrill, S III and Somer-Topcu, Z (2013) Does collective responsibility for performance Alter party strategies? Policy-seeking parties in proportional systems. British Journal of Political Science 43, 123.
Albert, JH and Chib, S (2001) Sequential ordinal modeling with applications to survival data. Biometrics 57, 829836.
Alvarez, RM and Nagler, J (1998) When politics and models collide: estimating models of multiparty elections. American Journal of Political Science 42, 5596.
Arndt, C (2014) Beating social democracy on its own turf: issue convergence as winning formula for the centre-right in universal welfare states. Scandinavian Political Studies 37, 149170.
Bakker, R et al. (2012) Measuring party positions in Europe: the chapel hill expert survey trend file, 1999–2010. Party Politics 21, 143–52.
Bargsted, MA and Kedar, O (2009) Coalition targeted Duvergerian voting: how expectations affect voter choice under proportional representation. American Journal of Political Science 53, 307323.
Barisione, M (2014) Debunking the myth of a ‘traditional’ gender gap in the electoral support for Silvio Berlusconi in Italy (1994–2013). Electoral Studies 36, 117128.
Bartolini, S, Chiaramonte, A and D'Alimonte, R (2004) The Italian party system between parties and coalitions. West European Politics 27, 119.
Bélanger, É (2003) Issue ownership by Canadian political parties 1953–2001. Canadian Journal of Political Science 36, 539558.
Bélanger, É and Meguid, BM (2008) Issue salience, issue ownership, and issue-based vote choice. Electoral Studies 27, 477491.
Bellucci, P (2007) Changing models of electoral choice in Italy. Modern Italy 12, 5572.
Bellucci, P (2012) Government accountability and voting choice in Italy, 1990–2008. Electoral Studies 31, 491497.
Bellucci, P, Garzia, D and Lewis-Beck, MS (2015) Issues and leaders as vote determinants: the case of Italy. Party Politics 21, 272283.
Benoit, K and Laver, M (2006) Party Policy in Modern Democracies. London: Routledge.
Bischof, D (2017) Towards a renewal of the niche party concept: parties, market shares and condensed offers. Party Politics 23, 220235.
Blais, A, Aldrich, JH, Indridason, IH and Levine, R (2006) Do voters vote for government coalitions? Testing downs’ pessimistic conclusion. Party Politics 12, 691705.
Budge, I and Farlie, D (1983) Explaining and Predicting Elections: Issue Effects and Party Strategies in Twenty-Three Democracies. London: Allen & Unwin.
Buis, ML (2010) Not All Transitions Are Equal: The Relationship between Inequality of Educational Opportunities and Inequality of Educational Outcomes. PhD Thesis: VU – University Amsterdam. Available online at
Buis, ML (2013) SEQLOGIT: Stata module to fit a sequential logit model. Available from
Buis, ML (2017) Not all transitions are equal: the relationship between effects on passing steps in a sequential process and effects on the final outcome. Sociological Methods & Research 46, 649680.
Clark, M (2009) Valence and electoral outcomes in Western Europe, 1976–1998. Electoral Studies 28, 111122.
Clark, M and Leiter, D (2014) Does the ideological dispersion of parties mediate the electoral impact of valence? A cross-national study of party support in nine Western European democracies. Comparative Political Studies 47, 171202.
Clarke, HD, Sanders, D, Stewart, MC and Whiteley, P (2004) Political Choice in Britain. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Corbetta, P and Cavazza, N (2008) From the Parish to the polling booth: evolution and interpretation of the political gender gap in Italy, 1968–2006. Electoral Studies 27, 272–84.
D'Alimonte, R and Bartolini, S (1998) How to lose a majority: the competition in single-member districts. European Journal of Political Research 34, 63106.
Debus, M and Müller, J (2014) Expected utility or learned familiarity? The formation of voters. Coalition Preferences’ Electoral Studies 34, 5467.
Downs, A (1957) An economic theory of political action in a democracy. Journal of Political Economy 65, 135150.
Duch, RM, May, J and Armstrong, DA (2010) Coalition-directed voting in multiparty democracies. American Political Science Review 104, 698719.
Duch, RM, Przepiorka, W and Stevenson, R (2015) Responsibility attribution for collective decision makers. American Journal of Political Science 59, 372389.
Evans, G and Andersen, R (2004) Do issues decide? Partisan conditioning and perceptions of party issue positions across the electoral cycle. British Elections & Parties Review 14, 1839.
Ezrow, L (2008) Research note: on the inverse relationship between votes and proximity for niche parties. European Journal of Political Research 47, 206220.
Ezrow, L, de Vries, CE, Steenbergen, M and Edwards, E (2011) Mean voter representation and partisan constituency representation: do parties respond to the mean voter position or to their supporters? Party Politics 17, 275301.
Fisher, SD and Hobolt, SB (2010) Coalition government and electoral accountability. Electoral Studies 29, 358369.
Fullerton, AS (2009) A conceptual framework for ordered logistic regression models. Sociological Methods & Research 38, 306347.
Garzia, D (2013) Changing parties, changing partisans: the personalization of partisan attachments in Western Europe. Political Psychology 34, 6789.
Garzia, D and Viotti, F (2011) Leader, Identità Di Partito E Voto in Italia, 1990–2008. Rivista Italiana di Scienza Politica 22, 411432.
Giannetti, D and De Giorgi, E (2006) The 2006 Italian general elections: issues, dimensions and policy positions of political parties. Journal of Modern Italian Studies 11, 494515.
Golder, SN (2005) Pre-electoral coalitions in comparative perspective: a test of existing hypotheses. Electoral Studies 24, 643663.
Green-Pedersen, C (2007) The growing importance of issue competition: the changing nature of party competition in Western Europe. Political Studies 55, 607628.
Green, J (2007) When voters and parties agree: valence issues and party competition. Political Studies 55, 629655.
Green, J and Hobolt, SB (2008) Owning the issue agenda: party strategies and vote choices in British elections. Electoral Studies 27, 460476.
Gschwend, T (2007) Ticket-splitting and strategic voting under mixed electoral rules: evidence from Germany. European Journal of Political Research 46, 123.
Gschwend, T and Hooghe, M (2008) Should I stay or should I go? An experimental study on voter responses to pre-electoral coalitions. European Journal of Political Research 47, 556577.
Gschwend, T, Meffert, MF, and Stoetzer, LF (2017) Weighing parties and coalitions: how coalition signals influence voting behavior. The Journal of Politics 79, 642655.
Han, KJ (2015) The impact of radical right-wing parties on the positions of mainstream parties regarding multiculturalism. West European Politics 38, 557576.
Hellwig, T (2012) Constructing accountability: party position taking and economic voting. Comparative Political Studies 45, 91118.
Hobolt, SB and Karp, JA (2010) Voters and coalition governments. Electoral Studies 29, 299307.
Kedar, O (2005) When moderate voters prefer extreme parties: policy balancing in parliamentary elections. American Political Science Review 99, 185199.
Mare, RD (1981) Change and stability in educational stratification. American Sociological Review 46, 7287.
Mauerer, I, Thurner, PW and Debus, M (2015) Under which conditions do parties attract voters’ reactions to issues? Party-varying issue voting in German elections 1987–2009. West European Politics 38, 12511273.
Meguid, BM (2005) Competition between unequals: the role of mainstream party strategy in niche party success. American Political Science Review 99, 347359.
Meguid, BM (2008) Party Competition between Unequals: Strategies and Electoral Fortunes in Western Europe. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Meyer, TM and Miller, B (2013) The niche party concept and its measurement. Party Politics 21, 259271.
OSCE (2006) Italy Parliamentary Elections 9–10 April 2006.
OSCE (2008) Italy Parliamentary Elections 13 and 14 2008.
Passarelli, G (2013) Extreme right parties in Western Europe: the case of the Italian northern league. Journal of Modern Italian Studies 18, 5371.
Petrocik, JR (1996) Issue ownership in presidential elections, with a 1980 case study. American Journal of Political Science 40, 825850.
Plescia, C (2017 a) Portfolio-specific accountability and retrospective voting: the case of Italy. Italian Political Science Review/Rivista Italiana di Scienza Politica 47, 313336.
Plescia, C (2017 b) The effect of pre-electoral party coordination on vote choice: evidence from the Italian regional elections. Political Studies 65, 144160.
Plescia, C and Aichholzer, J (2017) On the nature of voters’ coalition preferences. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties 27, 254273.
Rabinowitz, G and Macdonald, SE (1989) A directional theory of issue voting. The American Political Science Review 83, 93121.
Schofield, N and Sened, I (2005) Multiparty competition in Israel, 1988–96. British Journal of Political Science 35, 635663.
Spoon, J-J, Hobolt, SB and de Vries, CE (2014) Going green: explaining issue competition on the environment. European Journal of Political Research 53, 363380.
Stokes, DE (1963) Spatial models of party competition. The American Political Science Review 57, 368377.
Van der Brug, W (1999) Voters’ perceptions and party dynamics. Party Politics 5, 147169.
Van der Brug, W (2004) Issue ownership and party choice. Electoral Studies 23, 209233.
Walgrave, S, Lefevere, J and Tresch, A (2014) The limits of issue ownership dynamics: the constraining effect of party preference. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion & Parties 24, 119.
Wilson, A (2009) The Italian election of April 2008: a political earthquake? West European Politics 32, 215225.


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Bergman Dataset


Sorting between and within coalitions: the Italian case (2001–2008)

  • Matthew Edward Bergman (a1)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.