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An ecological analysis of voting behavior in Vancouver Munton, Donald James

Abstract

Local elections have received little attention in the literature of political science, either as an important component of city politics, or as a source of data on voting behavior. The present exploratory study, as merely one step towards redressing this situation, attempts to identify and analyze some of the political and social cleavages that underlie electoral politics in the city of Vancouver. The phenomena investigated as dependent variables include registration, turnout, ballot spoiling, non-use of votes, referenda voting, and candidate-party voting. The independent variables are the common census-derived socioeconomic characteristics of voters such as age, sex, marital status, religion, ethnicity, education level, occupation, and income. On the basis of a review of some important related studies, a simple model is proposed that sets out a theoretical relationship between these characteristics and voting behavior. The research method employed in the study is ecological analysis which, despite some inherent limitations, provides a suitable tool for the exploration of this relationship through correlation and regression techniques. A number of hypotheses are formulated from the data, but others, obtained from existing studies, have also been tested. The main findings of the present paper are twofold. Firstly, significant and generally explicable cleavages between broad socio-economic groups are revealed with respect to each of the dependent variables. Thus, for example, it is shown that each of the political parties in the city has a more or less solid base of support in voters of a particular socio-economic level. The second general conclusion, closely tied to the first, is that each of the broad groupings has a reasonably consistent and explicable pattern of behavior. Persons in the lowest socio-economic status group, for example, tend less to register and to vote, tend more to spoil ballots and leave votes unused, and tend to oppose referenda issues, as well as tending to vote for certain candidates. From the data and subsequent analysis, a typology is put forward classifying local voter orientation as being either purposive, maintaining, or protesting in nature. Finally, in part employing this typology as an explanatory mechanism, two general hypotheses are proposed which attempt to relate patterns of voting behavior firstly, to the decision-making output of Vancouver's political system and secondly, to persistence and change in the structure of the local party system.

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