Feelings about party leaders as a voter's heuristic – what happens when the leaders change? A note

Ron Johnston*, Todd Hartman, Charles Pattie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
14 Downloads (Pure)


Recent analyses of voting at British general elections deploy a valence theory according to which electors evaluate each party's performance and policies and vote accordingly. Many voters, however, avoid at least some of the effort involved in assembling and assessing information about parties' policies and instead use heuristics such as their feelings about the party leaders as major determinants of their decisions. When party leaders are changed, therefore, differences in voters' feelings about predecessor and successor could lead to changes in party choice. That argument is tested for the 2015 and 2017 British general elections in England, between which all three largest parties changed their leader, with results entirely consistent with the argument. In addition, there were significant changes in feelings about the new party leaders during the six weeks of the 2017 campaign, and these too were linked to final voting choices in the expected directions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-170
Number of pages7
JournalElectoral Studies
Early online date15 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


  • Voting
  • England
  • Heuristics
  • Party leaders
  • Feelings


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