Hobolt, Sara Binzer, and Hoyland, Bjorn. (2007) "Candidate Quality in European Parliament Elections". In: UNSPECIFIED, Montreal, Canada. (Unpublished)
European Parliament (EP) elections are characterized by low turnout and defection from governing parties to smaller parties. The most common explanation for this is that European elections are ‘second order national elections’, which voters use to either punish the government or simply abstain. However, so far the literature has not considered whether the quality of the candidates in EP elections is a contributing factor to these patterns of voting. In this paper, we examine whether low levels of turnout and defection from governing parties are influenced by the quality of candidates elected to the EP. We use a unique dataset on the background of each of the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from 1979 to 2006 to examine the determinants cross-national and cross-party variation in candidate experience and prominence, as well as the effect on turnout and electoral fortunes of parties. Finally, we examine whether the quality of candidates provides a good indicator of their activities in the Parliament. We find systematic differences in candidate quality across the member states. Higher candidate quality increases turnout and contributes to the electoral success of parties in EP elections. The drawback seems to be that the qualities that make candidates stand out in EP election campaigns make for inactive committee members.
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