Not all 'second-order' contests are the same: Turnout and party choice at the concurrent 2004 local and European Parliament elections in England

  • Rallings C
  • Thrasher M
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The European Parliament elections in June 2004 coincided with local elections in many parts of England. In four regions of the country these elections were conducted entirely by postal ballots; in four other regions traditional methods of polling were used. Overall turnout was higher where all-postal voting was in place, but having local in addition to European elections made an inde- pendent and significant contribution to the level of electoral participation in all postal and non- postal regions alike. The pattern of party choice at the two types of contest also varied considerably. The three major political parties together took a much larger share of the overall vote at the local than at the European elections, and each independently ‘lost’ a sizeable number of its local votes to smaller parties. Aggregate level analysis suggests that voters assess the importance of electoral contests along a continuum and, in Britain in 2004 at least, treated local elections as less ‘second- order’ than pan-European ones

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  • Colin Rallings

  • Michael Thrasher

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