British Journal of Political Science


Revisiting Electoral Volatility in Post-Communist Countries: New Data, New Results and New Approaches

Eleanor Neff Powell and Joshua A. Tucker *


This article provides a detailed set of coding rules for disaggregating electoral volatility into two components: volatility caused by new party entry and old party exit, and volatility caused by vote switching across existing parties. After providing an overview of both types of volatility in post-communist countries, the causes of volatility are analysed using a larger dataset than those used in previous studies. The results are startling: most findings based on elections in post-communist countries included in previous studies disappear. Instead, entry and exit volatility is found to be largely a function of long-term economic recovery, and it becomes clear that very little is known about what causes ‘party switching’ volatility. As a robustness test of this latter result, the authors demonstrate that systematic explanations for party-switching volatility in Western Europe can indeed be found.

(Online publication January 23 2013)


*  Department of Political Science, Yale University (email: [email protected]) and Wilf Family Department of Politics, New York University (email: [email protected]). All statistical analyses were conducted using Stata 11.0. Previous versions of this paper were presented at the 2008 Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association in Chicago, IL; the 2009 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association in Toronto, Ontario and the Conference on Vote-Maximizing Strategies of Political Parties at Washington University, St. Louis, 6–7 November 2009. We thank Sarah Birch and the editors at the British Journal of Political Science, anonymous reviewers, Josephine Andrews, Kevin Deegan-Krause, Daniel Kselman, Kenneth Greene, Alex Herzog, Kristin Michelitch, Margit Tavits, the Comparative Politics Seminar at Yale University and the Comparative Parties Reading Group at NYU for helpful suggestions and comments. We are particularly grateful to Mik Laver, whose comments on a different paper inspired this one. We thank as well Grigore Pop-Eleches for comments and suggestions as well as generous access to data he originally collected. We are also extremely grateful for Rebecca Greenberg's excellent research assistance. Data replication sets are available at (and also and, and the appendix is available online at