Elections are inherently about selecting good candidates for public office and sanctioning incumbents for past performance. Yet, in the low salience context of ‘second-order elections’ to the European Parliament, empirical evidence suggests that voters sanction first-order national incumbents. However, no previous study has examined whether voters also use these elections to select good candidates. This article draws on a unique dataset on the political experience of party representatives in eighty-five national elections to the European Parliament to evaluate the extent to which voters prefer candidates with more political experience. The results show that selection considerations do matter. Parties that choose experienced top candidates are rewarded by voters. This effect is greatest when European elections are held in the middle of the national electoral cycle.
(Online publication March 09 2011)
* Hobolt: Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford (email: email@example.com); Høyland: Center for International Climate and Environmental Research – Oslo (CICERO), and Centre for the Study of Civil War (CSCW), Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO). The authors would like to thank Ray Duch, Simon Hix, Simon Hug, Oddbjørn Knutsen, Michael Marsh, James Tilley, Hugh Ward, Albert Weale and Alan Wiseman as well as the anonymous reviewers for very useful comments. Earlier versions of this article were presented at the Midwest Political Science Association Meeting in 2007, the biannual meeting of the European Union Studies Association in 2007, the annual meeting of the Norwegian Political Science Association, as well as at the University of Oslo, the Free University of Brussels and the London School of Economics. We are also grateful to Simon Hix and Michael Marsh for giving us access to their data on European Parliament elections.