Political Science and Electoral Process: Is There a Link Between Political Demography and Political Psychology?

June 3, 2022
Written by: 
Krešimir Petković
Editor-in-Chief of Annals of the Croatian Political Science Association

Our first block of texts this year deals with elections and democracy. The texts are substantively and methodologically significantly different; they belong to different “genres” and start from different problems. The block is far from overcrowded – it consists of mere two texts – but we hope that the readers will recognize their quality and relevance, and notice the more subtle connections between them that are obscured by the contradictions of the micropolitical and macropolitical perspective they bring.

Text by Kosta Bovan from the Faculty of Political Science in Zagreb, How to Vote Correctly: An Experimental Study on the Impact of Political Sophistication, Cognitive Load, and Decision-Making Strategies, is a methodologically innovative research written in the tradition of political psychology. Bovan, who is interested in the concept of correct voting and the heuristics used by voters, opted for the experimental method to gain more precise insights into how voters burdened by their bounded rationality really make political decisions. His methodologically rigorous experiment with fictitious but ideologically recognizable parties in the context of Croatian politics – paired with due reflections on all the limitations of the experiment in relation to the world of real politics – shows that political motivation and voter compensation strategies contribute to the voting accuracy while, on the other hand, increased cognitive load reduces voting accuracy. If, unlike the author, we allow ourselves some abstract speculations and argue somewhat vaguely that political apathy leads to political sloppiness, does that mean that the science of politics must turn to the mythical figure of the philosopher king and abandon democracy and its cognitive burdens for citizens? On the contrary, by looking at politics as a continuation of ethics at the level of political community, we can emphasize the motive that appears in the text – the one of inclusion and participation as a potential amplification of the political accuracy. If we would thus dare to associate “positivist” political psychology with Aristotle, and recognize that even Plato could learn from his diligent student, practice could contribute to theory, and the political could precede the epistemic.

Text by Slaviša Orlović and Despot Kovačević from the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade Depopulation and Electoral Process: Voting Abroad in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro explores the institutions and practice of diaspora voting in the context of depopulation and emigration from the three “post-Yugoslav” states. Although they are defined by different social and political divisions, they are connected by the relative size of emigration and its political importance from the perspective of theories of democracy and the formation of general will in democratically organized communities. While the three cases are linked by inaccurate voter lists, they come out as different when compared by models of regulating the right to vote from abroad as well as the participation of emigrants in national elections in relation to the issues that make it difficult or impossible for the diaspora to vote. The authors conclude that the problems with a long-term genesis cannot be solved overnight, warn of the dangers to democracy posed by the emigration of young and educated middle-class people, and conclude that "the demographic picture of societies is changing their democratic picture." Is it possible to get out of the pessimistic genre of writing the diary of decay in the Hellenistic style and contribute to better politics through educated democratic design of institutions? Authors, following Habermas, seem to still believe in political theory and political science, and have not given up.

In addition to the English language and the very subject of elections, it can thus be said that these texts are ultimately connected by a dual, empirical and normative, concern of political science for democracy. Political processes cannot be separated from social and demographic movements that give them context, nor can the quality of democracy be built without adequate knowledge of the functioning of voters in the context of limited cognitive and temporal resources. Putting aside the editorial speculation, one thing is beyond dispute: dealing with the indicated issues, both of these texts enrich the knowledge of contemporary political science interested in Croatian and comparative politics in the regional context.

Annals of the Croatian Political Science Association

Croatian Political Science Association
Faculty of Political Science
Lepušićeva 6, 10 000 Zagreb

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