Analysis of electoral behavior on the example of presidential elections in Poland in 2010

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1 Analysis of electoral behavior on the example of presidential elections in Poland in 2010 Halina yszczarz, Ph.D. Monika Sady, M.Sc. Department of International Management Cracow University of Economics Abstract In representative democracy, the issues of factors affecting choice of a given politician as representative in wielding power gain particular importance. As a part of political marketing, several basic theories determining these factors are distinguished. The conducted empirical research indicates importance of the socalled psychological theory, in accordance with which a dominant factor in u- encing decisions of the voters in presidential elections are emotions, understood as positive or negative attitude towards a given politician, which results directly from the image of a given politician in the eyes of the voters. Taking account of the assumption that the image is a dynamic phenomenon created in mind of the individual on the basis of selected information, it can be stated that the electoral success of a given candidate is in uenced, to a signi cant extent, by ef ciency and effectiveness of PR specialists working for him/her, rather than by his/her political program. It means questioning the paradigm of voters rationality (economic theory) and stressing the meaning of their political education. Introduction Robert A. Dahl (2000), in his deliberations concerning democratic system, indicates, among others, importance of the privilege of citizens, being the freedom to choose their representatives to state authorities. Interest in the issues of political choices is, due to its special character, typical of democratic states, where from half past century research on electoral behavior is conducted, and, in consequence, such elds as psephology, formulating theories of electoral behaviors, and political marketing have appeared. Development, in particular in this latter eld, arouses controversies. Its supporters emphasize that, as a result of instruments of political marketing, we can learn voters expectations and adjust adequately the 327

2 program of political parties or of a candidate for important state positions, enhancing thus the democratic character of the state. In turn, the opponents indicate that the use of political marketing methods opens possibilities of manipulating the electorate. Therefore, the main objective of this discussion is to provide answers to questions what citizens follow when making their political choices and to which degree these choices are truly free, which electoral market segments can be distinguished and which candidate selection criteria are important for different segments, to which degree the existing electoral behavior theories explain political decisions of citizens. What, consequently, should characterize actions conducted towards different voters segments. Conclusions will be formulated on the basis of a survey on electoral behavior of citizens in the course of the presidential elections in Poland in The survey was conducted on 279-person heterogenic group of respondents in the region of Little Poland. Electoral behavior theories Theories explaining electoral behavior of the citizens formulated so far are, as a rule, based on one of three paradigms: sociological paradigm, psychological paradigm, economic paradigm. According to the sociological paradigm, af liation or sense of af liation to a given social community (e.g. professional, class, demographic community) determines political choices of citizens. At this point, it is assumed that members of a given community characterize the same system of values and similar interests, which means that views of members of a given community regarding which political party or which candidate will preferably represent their interests should be concurrent. Therefore, factors con rming rightness of the sociological theory include high uniformity of political preferences among family, co-workers, neighbors, including within particular professional groups. From assumptions of this approach it results that political views and choices of individual citizens may be largely in uenced by persons enjoying large authority and trust of a given social community, namely the so-called opinion leaders. The impact of the mass-media will be signi cantly weaker. According to the psychological paradigm, these are emotions, namely, rst of all, attitude of the voter to a given political group or candidate, which play a signi cant role when making decisions. The attitude of the voter to a given option may depend, rst of all, on his/her system of values, but also on emotional condition (level of satisfaction with life, frustration, depression, fears and phobia, etc.). These factors in uence jointly the degree to which a given voter will support keeping or changing the existing political status quo. Positive emotions aroused in the voter by a given politician or political formation make him/her identify with 328

3 the system of values of this politician or political formation, feel loyalty towards them, and normally it is dif cult to change this type of relationship in the short term through political campaigns. In this approach, creating an adequate image of the candidate, conducted in a longer period of time, gains important signi - cance, which may become the main task of political marketing specialists acting for the bene t of a given candidate or a given group. Pursuing appealing to many voters, heterogeneous by their nature, can lead to creating a fuzzy and hardly expressive image of this candidate and (possibly) expressive, assessed as hardly attractive, images of rivals. The importance of emotions when making electoral decisions may be proved, e.g., by the fact that often the voters cannot characterize a given politician (they know little about him/her), but, at the same time, they have strong feelings towards him/her, make political choices without being able to justify them (summary approach when making decisions) and if substantiation is given, it is often of non-substantive nature, related to the program or competences of a given politician. Although on the basis of psychological theories it may be concluded that people, in their political elections, vote more with hearts than with minds (Wattenberg, 1987), namely, they do not proceed reasonably, the economic paradigm assumes that the voter, according to characteristics of homo economicus, analyzes possible bene ts which may result from a given option, namely, proceeds reasonably, but also egoistically. According to this approach, the voter is familiar with the program of a given formation or candidate, and it is nothing else than the program which is the basic decision criterion characteristics of the candidate are of secondary importance. The voter, just as the client on the market, analyzes different political offer and chooses the one he/she considers the most favorable, provided that he/she may bear in mind the situation of the whole country/and individual situation. The possibility of assessment of these offers assumes that the voter disposes of full information on the political situation and the willingness to conduct its exact analysis. It can be, however, stated that, rst of all, only selected information reaches the voter, and, secondly, people, when making decisions, often follow peculiarly understood principle of economy minimizing effort needed to make a decision they do not carry out detailed analyses, but take account only of some speci c characteristics of a given situation, namely they use cognitive shortcuts, which, however, very often distorts the image of reality. These mechanisms open for political marketing specialists the possibilities of affecting assessments made by the voter. A political campaign based on the economic paradigm may be focused on emphasizing these problems with which a given formation deals better than its political competitors. Presenting speci c solutions may, however, result in dissatisfaction of the voters with contradictory interests, which often involves presentation of a fuzzy and vague program, not concrete and emphasizing during the political campaign aspects without direct connection with the political program, e.g. characteristics of the candidate, namely, in consequence, focusing on one s own image and on the image of rivals. 329

4 Table 1. Characteristics of electoral behavior theories assumption when making electoral decisions, citizens follow candidate selection criterion Sociological theory Psychological theory Economic theory the sense of af liation to a given community candidate/party preferably pursuing interests of a given community emotions candidate s image economic factors candidate s program Source: prepared by the author on the basis of: W. Cwalina, A. Falkowski (2006), A.W. Jab o ski, L. Sobkowiak (2010), Mazur M. (2007). The previous considerations indicate increasing importance of the image of entities functioning It can be assumed that in the case when these choices relate to individual, rather than the whole political formation, as it is, for instance, in the case of presidential elections, and taking account of the special character of the performed function (representative of the nation), the importance of the image grows substantially. The image understood as image of a given politician or rather an idea about him/ her, is a subjective and dynamic phenomenon. On one hand, the image is affected by actual and created characteristics and actions concerning a given politician and, on the other hand, by the system of values of the elector (selection of criteria of assessment of a given politician and their relative importance). The difference in systems of values of the voters explains often occurring opposition of the images of different politicians. Therefore, increase in the electorate through improvement in the image requires identifying the system of values of the voters, and perhaps even in uencing this system, which may be pursued using knowledge about cognitive psychology and related constructivist approach. According to it, the mind may create different interpretations of the same stimulus on the basis of available and continuously supplemented knowledge. And the fact which knowledge reaches the voters may be the object of interest and impact of specialists for creation of the desired image of a given politician, which may be interpreted as a kind of limitation in the voters freedom. Characteristics of the presidential elections in Poland in 2010 In the presidential elections in 2010, which took place on the previous date in connection with the Smolensk disaster, in which the incumbent President, generals and many politicians died, 10 candidates took part: Marek Jurek leader of the Right of the Republic of Poland, former Speaker of the Sejm, rst start in presidential elections; Jaros aw Kaczy ski president of the Law and Justice, former Prime Minister, brother of Lech Kaczy ski, President of the Republic of Poland, deceased on , rst start in presidential elections; Bonis aw Komorowski candidate of the Civic Platform, former Speaker of the Sejm, after death of Lech Kaczy ski President of the Republic 330

5 of Poland, temporarily performing duties of the President, rst start in presidential elections; Janusz Korwin-Mikke leader of the party Freedom and Lawfulness, former president of the Real Politics Union, fourth start in presidential elections ( % of votes and eighth place, /43 and sixth place, % and sixth place); Andrzej Lepper president and founder of the Self-defense Party, former Deputy Prime Minister, fourth start in presidential elections ( % of votes and ninth place, % and fth place, % and third place); Kornel Morawiecki president and founder of the Fighting Solidarity, second start in presidential elections (in 1990 he put himself up as a candidate but did not manage to gather signatures with support, required by the electoral regulations); Grzegorz Napieralski president of the Left Democratic Alliance, after the Smole sk tragedy replaced the deceased Left Democratic Alliance candidate for president Deputy Speaker of the Sejm, Jerzy Szmajdzi ski, rst start in presidential elections; Andrzej Olechowski head of the Program Council of the Democratic Party, co-founder of the Civic Platform, second start in presidential elections ( % of votes, second place); Waldemar Pawlak president of the Polish Folk Party, former Deputy Prime Minister, second start in presidential elections ( % of votes, fth place); Bogus aw Zi tek president of the Polish Labor Party, head of the Free Trade Union August 80, rst start in presidential elections. Table 2. Of cial results of voting in the rst round Name of the candidate Electoral result Bronis aw Komorowski Jaros aw Kaczy ski Grzegorz Napieralski Janusz Korwin-Mikke Waldemar Pawlak Andrzej Olechowski Andrzej Lepper Marek Jurek Bogus aw Zi tek Kornel Morawiecki 41.54% 36.46% 13.68% 2.48% 1.75% 1.44% 1.28% 1.06% 0.18% 0.13% Source: prepared by the author on the basis of data of the State Electoral Commission In the runoff Jaros aw Kaczy ski obtained 46.99% of votes, while Bronis aw Komorowski obtained 53.01% of votes, winning thus the presidential elections in Poland. In 2010, the electoral campaign covered several elds. The largest campaign expenses were sustained by the electoral staff of the Law and Justice and of the Civic Platform. TV spots were the most important and the most capital intensive. 331

6 Later, in the campaign of Jaros aw Kaczy ski, an important role was played by billboards and posters, which proves a traditional approach to campaign. The staff of Bronis aw Komorowski, excusing themselves with the willingness to respect the memory of victims of the Smole sk tragedy, did not invest too much in billboards, focusing, however, on an intensive ght on the Internet via the website and social network services, gaining thereby votes of the younger generation (very active in the network). These two candidates appeared very often in the mass media in connection with the Smolensk tragedy Jaros aw Kaczy ski is a brother of the tragically deceased President Lech Kaczy ski, while Bronis aw Komorowski, after the tragedy, performed the function of acting as the President of the Republic of Poland. A frequent presence in the mass media ensured them, in this aspect, advantage over other candidates. At this point, it should be emphasized that the reason for the early elections signi cantly eased electoral campaigns of all candidates who, owing to the national mourning and respect for the deceased, decided to run campaigns in a professional manner, but signi cantly more mild than in the case of previous elections. Campaigns were focused, exceptionally and intensively, on emphasizing family bonds and identifying with normal citizens. During the campaign, an attempt was also made to avoid the subject of the disaster, so as not to make use of this situation in the electoral ght, which would be assessed as immoral by the voters. Other candidates, in connection with several times lower funds for the campaign, focused on less costly promotion (posters, lea ets, sponsored interviews, election meetings), trying to appear in the mass media with the possibly smallest nancial expenses. At this point, it is worth emphasizing a good result of Grzegorz Napieralski, who, in spite of relatively low funds and the possibility to appear in the mass media incomparably smaller than the biggest rivals, obtained a very high result thanks to active participation in the life of local communities, active comments on political life and a very involved attitude. Analysis of the electorate of two strongest candidates The conducted analysis allows stating that ca. 80% of the voters of J. Kaczy ski were his iron electorate 1, and that 50% of them were inhabitants of large cities (more than inhabitants), and 28% were inhabitants of the country, and the remaining 22% were inhabitants of mid-size cities. The wealth level does not have a greater impact on preferences towards a candidate (37.5% of the iron electorate of J. Kaczy ski are persons whose monthly income per capita ranges from 500 to 1000 PLN, and 30% of them have income exceeding 2000 PLN). In the surveyed group, 70% of this electorate are women. 1 Iron electorate is here understood as voters who voted for a given candidate in both rounds and additionally are supporters of the political formation which put up a given candidate, which additionally strengthens loyalty towards him/her. 332

7 The analysis of surveys indicates that Jaros aw Kaczy ski is perceived by his supporters as, rst of all, patriot, expressive politician taking care of the welfare of citizens, fair and right person. He arouses trust, is incorruptible. As defects of this politician, his supporters indicate (incidentally) inability to cooperate with the mass media and impulsiveness, quick temper. His rival is, in turn, perceived by the voters of J. Kaczy ski as hardly expressive politician, coarse, not arousing trust, often as a puppet controlled by more or less speci ed interest groups, namely as a politician not representing interests of the so-called normal people. Among the respondents, 55% of the voters of B. Komorowski were his iron electorate, and 66% of them were inhabitants of large cities (more than ), 24% were inhabitants of the country. Among the voters of B. Komorowski, ca. 40% are people with income exceeding 2000 PLN (and 26% with income of PLN, 22% with income of PLN). In this group, 60% were women. B. Komorowski is perceived by his electorate as, rst of all, a representative, even-tempered, family, intelligent man. As defects of this politician, his supporters indicate his small expressiveness and no independence in expressing political views. On the other hand, J. Kaczy ski is perceived by supporters of B. Komorowski as an unpredictable and confrontational person. As advantages of J. Kaczy ski, few respondents from the group of supporters of his rival indicated patriotism, involvement, education. Analysis of the electorate of B. Komorowski indicates that the voters, when characterizing this candidate, follow to a smaller extent criteria resulting from characteristics of the ideal candidate speci ed by them. According to indications of the respondents being the electorate of B. Komorowski, the ideal president should be educated, determined, have clearly identi ed goals, and only on the third place they indicate attractive appearance, which, as it results from answers of the respondents, is for them the main characteristic of this politician. Table 3. Characteristics of the ideal candidate according to the electorate of J. Kaczy ski and B. Komorowski (in %) Characteristic Electorate of Electorate of J. Kaczy ski B. Komorowski Patriotism Honesty, righteousness Determination, clear goals Education, knowledge, competences Care for public welfare 24 9 Intelligence Objectivity, independence Authority, charisma Attractive appearance, representativeness Source: prepared by the author 333

8 Table 4. Basic characteristics of politicians according to the electorate of J. Kaczy ski and B. Komorowski Electorate of Characteristics of J. Kaczy ski J. Kaczy ski patriot, right, fair, incorruptible B. Komorowski Source: prepared by the author quarrelsome, fanatic, unpredictable Characteristics of B. Komorowski hardly expressive, controlled, coarse, incompetent representative, calm, likeable, nonconfrontational, family Among the respondents, ca. 15% had not participated in both rounds of the elections. Among the reasons for absence, they speci ed, rst of all, lack of time or absence at the place of residence (40%), lack of interest in the upcoming elections and lack of belief in their sense (ca. 45%), as well as lack of adequate candidate (ca. 15% of the respondents). Their unquestionable majority had dif culties with indication of both characteristics of the ideal candidate and characterization of both major candidates for president. More than 60% of them do not support any political option. Thus, it may be assumed that this is a group of citizens who are not interested in politics and do not participate in political life of the country either. Ca. 90% of them are relatively young people (aged years, including 2/3 are people aged up to 25 years). A separate group of voters are those who in the rst round voted for other candidates than those who passed to the runoff. They were ca. 12% of the respondents, and their main candidates were G. Napieralski (60%), as well as J. Korwin- -Mikke (ca. 35%). Almost all electors of G. Napieralski voted for R. Komorowski in the runoff. On the contrary, more than 30% of the voters of J. Korwin-Mikke voted for J. Kaczy ski in the runoff. As the main reasons for voting for G. Napieralski, the supporters emphasized the desire to introduce changes in the country and focus on young people. For the electorate of G. Napieralski, the basic characteristics of the ideal politician are care for the country and social matters of citizens, conscientiousness and familiarity with politics. For supporters of J. Korwin-Mikke, political and economic program of the candidate and his/her party is important, and the ideal candidate should be intelligent, educated, have economic and political knowledge, be allparty and patriot. Identi cation of electoral behavior The conducted surveys do not con rm that af liation to different social communities affects signi cantly political choices (only 4% of the respondents admitted that when choosing the candidate for president followed opinion of their family and friends). Although respondents answers indicate that ca. 80% of them discuss political topics mostly in the bosom of family and with co-workers, and 75% 334

9 of them ascertain uniformity of political preferences within these social groups, however, the analysis of political choices of particular professional groups or communities separated on the basis of the demographic criteria, including wealth criterion, does not con rm this uniformity. Presence of this discrepancy can be explained using the dynamic theory of social impact, in accordance with which individuals check support their views enjoy in the society. When a given person states that is in minority may take over views dominant in a given community, especially if persons representing them have a large authority, or he/she may resign from open demonstrating views towards a broader group. At their political choices, electors do not follow economic criteria either. Only 10% of them paid attention to views and program of candidates, including only 25% attempted to assess past achievements of the candidate, which may con rm the fact that for the vast majority of voters economic criteria are not of primary importance. On the basis of the conducted surveys, it can be concluded that the psychological paradigm explains electoral behavior of the surveyed respondents to a maximum extent. As it has been already mentioned, according to this approach, a hardly expressive, protective image of its candidate and very expressive, uninteresting image of the rival are created. Such strategy seems to be executed in particular by B. Komorowski, which is proved by the way of perception of this politician (hardly expressive, hardly clear) also by his/her supporters, and assessments strongly lled with emotions (negative ones of opponents and positive ones of supporters) of the rival. Surveys indicate a dominant importance of the candidate s image (to a smaller extent of political formation from which he/she origins) on electoral decisions of citizens. Most of the surveyed are able to specify characteristics of the politician ideal in their opinion, and many of them follow these characteristics when making political choices. For instance, for the voters of J. Kaczy ski personal and competence characteristics of the politician are of a greater importance than in the case of the voters of B. Komorowski, who pay much attention to characteristics indicated not at all or only incidentally by the voters of J. Kaczy ski, such as: presence, attractiveness, representativeness, self-control, calmness, namely of more external character. Of course, an interesting objective of surveys would be also determination of the degree to which electors, when specifying characteristics of the ideal politician, follow abstract image of politician created by them, to which degree they describe characteristics of the real politician for whom they feel af nity. The latter approach may be proved by the fact that many voters were not even able to justify their choices in any way (it applies to ca. 30% of the voters of B. Komorowski and 15% of the voters of J. Kaczy ski). In addition, many of them are unable to characterize both politicians (35% of the voters of B. Komorowski, 23% of the voters of J. Kaczy ski and overall 27% of all respondents). Thus, it may be concluded that many of them apply summary approach in their political choices, 335

10 following mainly emotions, rather than reasonable analysis. This thesis is additionally con rmed by the manner of characterizing the rival, in which in the case of one of them insults prevail de nitely over an attempt of objective assessment. Only incidentally attention is paid to such characteristics of the rival as discipline, consistency, care for citizens, patriotism or education. Such a situation may prove success of conducted, the so-called negative image campaign 2 or even aggressive negative campaign 3, which happens to be effective in spite of the fact that recipients, in general, do not assess positively the idea of such advertising. This effectiveness may result from the fact that a message repeated many times, both negative and positive, remains in the mind of the recipient, although he/she may already not remember source and form of this message. This message may come to mind as the rst information when analyzing the political situation by the elector (in accordance with the principle of economy, when making decisions, electors normally do not conduct a thorough analysis of the politics and politicians, which would require a greater effort, but they make decisions on the basis of information that in a way comes to mind on its own, namely very often this information, with which the recipient was permanently attacked ). It causes emergence of stereotypes and other, the so-called cognitive cuts which often distort perception of reality. Final conclusions On the basis of the conducted surveys, it can be concluded that in the future, to increase his/her electorate, particular politicians should pay attention subsequently to the following voters segments: voters who participate in the elections, but do not identify themselves with any political party, and who can be called unstable electors (over 20% of the respondents), potential voters (namely those who currently do not exercise their rights, the so-called iron electorate of rivals. Potential voters may be encouraged to political activity through appropriate information campaigns oriented to make aware of the impact of electoral decisions on situation of the elector and of the country, as well as through resignation from the use of various kinds of negative political campaigns, which may result exactly in discouragement of a part of the electorate. This part of the society shows indifference in relation to political matters (therefore, importance of 2 Negative image advertising presents unfavorably character traits of the rival without analyzing his/her political program (e.g. information concerning personal life, health, religion, etc.). Source: W. Cwalina, A. Falkowski, pp Assaultive advertisement is, according to Johnson-Cartee: W. Cwalina, A. Falkowski (p. 481) is the most poisonous form of negative advertising, and is characterized by dissemination of gossip, insinuation, immortalizing hints, lying and calling the rival names (as above). 336

11 casting vote in the elections should be emphasized each vote is important), or indecision with regard to political beliefs (therefore, the most effective way to persuade them to one s arguments would be information campaign combined with image campaign). Interest of unstable voters may be raised through appropriate image creation (for instance, in the case of J. Kaczy ski, emphasizing such characteristics as: calmness, self-control, as well as conducting such campaign which would effectively undermine his image created by political opponents; in the case of B. Komorowski, emphasizing such characteristics as care for the country, determination, increase in competences). It seems that broadening of the electorate should be easier for J. Kaczy ski (assuming equal treatment by the mass media), owing to the fact that 45% of the voters of R. Komorowski did not declare themselves as supporters of his political formation (among the voters of J. Kaczy ski this percentage amounted to 20%), and many of them voted for this politician by the so-called negative voting (on the basis of selecting smaller evil ), which proves weaknesses of the image of this politician, but, at the same time, emphasizes strength of the image of the rival. Due to a great strength of the image of J. Kaczy ski, actions of his staff, designed to increase his electorate, should be oriented, to a greater extent than in the case of his rival, to creation of the system of values of unstable voters and possibly iron supporters of the rival. Winning liking of the electorate of rivals is not an easy task and, rst of all, normally this task is executed in a longer period of time, to create in the mind of the voter the manner of perceiving reality desired by a given politician or political option. This goal might be achieved through applying various methods of persuasion, but it brings electorate manipulation hazard and, in a sense, may be perceived as undermining the principle of freedom of the citizen when making electoral decisions. Bibliography Cwalina W., Falkowski A., Marketing polityczny, perspektywa psychologiczna, Gda skie Wydawnictwo Psychologiczne, Gda sk Dahl R.A., O demokracji, Znak, Kraków Jab o ski A.W., Sobkowiak L. (ed.) Marketing polityczny w teorii i praktyce, Wyd. Uniwersytetu Wroc awskiego, Wroc aw Mazur M., Marketing polityczny. Studium porównawcze, PWN, Warszawa Wattenberg M.P., The hollow realignment: Partisan change in a candidate-centered era, Public Opinion Quarterly, 5A1/1987. Website wybory.onet.pl Website of the State Electoral Commission 337

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