Reevaluating the Influence of Leaders Under Proportional Representation: Quantitative Analysis of Text in an Electoral Experiment

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


We propose that leaders play a more important role in voters' party sympathy in proportional representation systems (PR) than previous research has suggested. Voters, from the 2018 Swedish General Election, were in an experiment asked to describe leaders and parties with three indicative keywords. Statistical models were conducted on these text data to predict their vote choice. The results show that despite that the voters vote for a party, the descriptions of leaders predicted vote choice to a similar extent as descriptions of parties. However, the order of the questions mattered, so that the first questions were more predictive than the second question. These analyses indicate that voters tend to conflate characteristics of leaders with their parties during election campaigns, and that leaders are a more important aspect of voting under PR than previous literature has suggested. Overall, this suggests that statistical analysis of words sheds new light of underlying sympathies related to voting.


External organisations
  • Karlstad University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Psychology


  • leaders, parties, voting, primacy, proportional representation, statistical semantics
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)604135
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Publication categoryResearch