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Analysis of the
1999 Parliamentary Elections

0. Preliminary remarks
1. Pre-electoral situation
2. Time of the voting decision
3. Party changers
4. Key motives
5. Socio-demographic groups
6. Traditional determinants
7. Transformation of party system
8. References
9. Authors


6. Traditional determinants and new cleavages in voting behaviour

The voting behaviour of persons who are strongly affiliated with a religious denomination has remained steady in the course of time, although their share in the electorate has continuously declined. In these elections, 59 percent of the voters who were strongly affiliated with a particular religion – defined as regular attendance of the church service – have voted for the OVP, 20 percent for the SPO and only 13 percent for the FPO. On the other hand, the formative influence of union affiliation, which is the second traditional determinant of voting behaviour in Austria, has become slightly weaker. Forty-nine percent of the union members voted for the SPO, whereas nine years ago this figure had been 62 percent. In 1999, 21 percent of the union members voted for the FPO. Thus, the share of FPO voters among union members has doubled within nine years. The proportion of the OVP, however, is comparably stable: 19 percent of the union-member employees again voted for the Austrian People’s Party in these elections.

In the late 90s, however, these traditional determinants are no longer sufficient to describe the complexity of the Austrian voting behaviour. New conflicts and shifts are meanwhile shaping the voting behaviour of the Austrians to a greater extent than the affiliation with a particular church or union membership. Due to time constraints, the authors can only deal with the fundamental changes in the conflicting structure of the Austrian party system.

  • Class voting, which shaped the Austrian voting behaviour until the 70s is a thing of the past. Only 35 percent of the blue-collar voters opted for the Social Democratic Party, while 60 percent voted for centre-right parties, of which the FPO managed to attract 47 percent. The behaviour of the white-collar voters also shows only relics of traditional class voting. In this group, too, the Social Democratic Party is in fierce competition with the OVP and FPO, but also with the new post-materialistic and libertarian parties such as the Greens or the Liberal Forum.

  • The most striking gender-specific differences in voting behaviour can be found with the FPO, which is number one among men, but continues to rank third in the group of female voters. It is a gender gap which has only been seen in the voting behaviour in the US, where the Republican Party, similar to the FPO, has caused a gender-specific polarisation in voting behaviour.

  • Age is another significant dividing factor in the Austrian voting behaviour. Only 42 percent of the voters under 30 opted for the SPO or OVP. The FPO has become the strongest party by far among the members of younger generations of voters with a share of 35 percent. But even in the 60 plus age group, pensioners no longer concentrate their votes on the two traditional parties. The SPO and OVP continue to have an above-average share of voters among senior citizens, and, consequently, the governing parties have an obviously overly aged voter structure. However, with a share of 23 percent, this time the FPO has become a competitive factor in this voting sector.

  • Since the 1994 parliamentary elections the Austrian election researchers have also pointed to a new shift in the voting behaviour between the sheltered and unsheltered production sector, for which there is empirical evidence in the 1999 parliamentary elections. Only 21 percent of the public-sector employees voted for the FPO as compared to 31 percent of the employees in the private sector. This is also reflected in the voting behaviour of non-union member employees. The OVP and FPO have an equal share of 30 percent each among non-union members, while the SPO is only the third-largest party in this voter segment with a 24 percent share.

  • The voting behaviour of persons living in a worker household shows how permeable the "Lager", which are so characteristic for Austria, have become. This is the line along which the conflict and competition runs between the SPO (41 percent share) and FPO (38 percent share), which are steering an increasingly fiercer confrontational course within this social class.

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