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Title page for ETD etd-03282018-185252

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Russo, Guilherme Azzi
URN etd-03282018-185252
Title Political Behavior in Complex Informational Environments: The Effect of Number of Parties on Political Efficacy, Voter Turnout and Political Knowledge
Degree PhD
Department Political Science
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Jonathan Hiskey Committee Chair
Cindy D. Kam Committee Member
Elizabeth J. Zechmeister Committee Member
Shaun Bowler Committee Member
  • voter turnout
  • number of parties
  • political efficacy
  • political knowledge
  • party system
Date of Defense 2018-02-20
Availability unrestricted
Do higher or increasing levels in the number of electoral options instill a greater sense of efficacy among citizens? Scholars have argued that a larger number of parties competing in an election should promote higher levels of individual political efficacy due to a increasing competition and a more diverse set of options on the political menu of citizens. This dissertation disputes these claims by positing that more options are not necessarily better for the public. Building on previous works on political behavior and social cognitive theory, I argue that institutional arrangements that demand higher cognitive efforts from citizens, like more political parties in one's environment, have a negative effect on individuals' perceptions about their ability to understand and participate in politics. Moreover, I propose this negative effect should be particularly strong among those with lower levels of education. I test my theory by exploring variation in the number of parties or candidates across time in New Zealand, across municipalities in Colombia and Brazil, and across a large number of countries. Results from chapter 2 indicate that in environments where there are more parties, levels of internal efficacy tend to be lower, especially among individuals who did not complete post-secondary education. In chapter 3, I find that when the number of mayoral candidates increase when compared to the previous municipal election, participation rates lower in subnational elections. In chapter 4, I review works that estimate the relationship between the number of parties and individuals' political knowledge, and find that differences in measurement and approaches to imputation of missing data can lead to conflicting results. The insights from this dissertation advance our understanding of the relationship between the number of electoral options and political behavior.
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