Voter heuristics and political cognition in Italy: An empirical typology

Delia Baldassarri, Hans Schadee

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Within a framework of reasoning voters who use various cognitive shortcuts - heuristics - to arrive at decision, we classify Italian voters on the basis of the information they possess, how information and judgment are organized and whether preferences match actual vote. By using only two sets of variables present in nearly all election surveys, we distinguish four types of voters: Utilius, a sort of Downsian voter that uses the left-right dimension in order to reduce the complexity of politics to a unidimensional space; Amicus, who conceives politics as an arena in which two main coalitions fight; Aliens, a detached voter that is strongly disinterested in - or even disappointed by - politics and its protagonists; and Medians, who belongs to a residual category. By distinguishing voters according to their actual knowledge and style of political reasoning, we provide a classification that is both able to grasp actual differences in the level of political cognition and sophistication, and suggestive with respect to the kind of information that are pertinent for the task at hand. We demonstrate that people follow multiple strategies and rely selectively on different kind of available information. It follows that parties, leaders, coalitions and media affect voter behavior, but they have different leverage on different types of voters. We conclude that a proper account of voter behavior needs to move from the search of the determinants of vote to the search of multiple mechanisms through which voters perceive, represent and evaluate the political landscape.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)448-466
    Number of pages19
    JournalElectoral Studies
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Sep 2006


    • Heuristics
    • Italy
    • Political cognition
    • Political sophistication
    • Public opinion
    • Typology
    • Voter behaviour

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Political Science and International Relations


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