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How Protest Voters Choose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Sarah Birch, James Dennison

Original languageEnglish
Early online date28 Mar 2017
Accepted/In press19 Feb 2017
E-pub ahead of print28 Mar 2017


King's Authors


Political scientists have identified protest voting – voting for an anti-establishment party as a protest against mainstream politics – as a consequence of dissatisfaction with traditional political options. Yet we know little about how what motivates people to cast a protest vote or why voters select one such protest option over another. Taking as its empirical referent the 2015 General Election in Great Britain, this paper assesses the ‘protest choice’ in parliamentary democracies. We test three possible theoretical explanations for protest voting: ideology, mistrust of political elites and campaign effects. We find that the most important factors affecting protest choice are issue positions and campaign effects. The findings suggest that protest voting is a complex phenomenon that cannot be reduced to knee-jerk anti-politics reactions.

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