What Field Studies Can Bring to Electoral Analysis

“Do Fieldwork, Think Case by Case”
By Céline Braconnier

Nowadays, electoral analysis relies mainly on atomistic data surveys, which reinforce the explanatory model of the rational voter, voting without being influenced by his surroundings, and on the basis of a study of political options. This paper emphasizes the scientific value of going back to field studies to better understand voting determinants. It uses several field research experiments based on area-specific observational methods. On the one hand, because case studies allow the accumulation and the crossing of verified data of a different kind, they lead to specific behavioral approaches whose distribution in the social space can be the topic of further surveys. On the other hand, case studies apprehend voters in their environment—family, friends, and neighborhoods—which allows the analysis of the collective dimension of voting. The socio-demographic characteristics of individuals, and their academic, professional, or residential evolution, are then understood as embodied predispositions to abstain or to vote, or to do so in a certain sense. The researcher can then observe if such predispositions will turn into voting practices or if, on the contrary, they seem neutralized by the environment. Field studies, therefore, lead to a different and in-depth analysis of voting practices.

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