The attractiveness of local and national list labels: the role of socio-economic inequalities on the success of electoral lists

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According to Rokkan’s nationalization thesis, national parties should dominate the realm of local politics over time as national socio-economic cleavages increasingly dominate local political life. Yet recent studies show that – far from declining – local lists have been growing in the local electorate of multiple European countries. This article seeks to assess the attractiveness of local and national list labels at local elections. Following Rokkan’s thesis of the nationalization of local politics, we most specifically test the role of socio-economic inequality on the success of electoral lists across municipalities. Based on an original dataset distinguishing the labels of 1.012 electoral lists – be they local, mixed or national – in 262 Walloon municipalities in Belgium, the multilevel regressions establish that local and mixed labels present a significant electoral advantage vis-à-vis national party labels. However, the empirics show that this electoral gain decreases as economic inequalities increase in a municipality: national labels, especially for left-wing parties, attract more voters as inequalities rise. Overall, the results show that ‘nationalization of local politics’ is far from being a linear process over time, ‘nationalized local politics’ rests instead upon the structural socio-economic context of each municipality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)763-779
Number of pages17
JournalLocal Government Studies
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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