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The Changing Austrian Voter

0. Introduction
1. Traditional party competition
2. Party affiliation and volatility
3. Traditional determinants
4. Erosion of class voting
5. Gender/Generation realignment
6. Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ)
7. References
8. The authors


0. Introduction

What was merely a predicted scenario in the mid-eighties is now, fifteen years later, the reality of party competition in Austria: "a development characterised by the fact that the two major parties are nearing the status of medium-sized parties in terms of electoral success and are being forced to leave the growing potential of non-affiliated voters, younger voters and voters with an above-average mobility to third or fourth parties" (Plasser 1987: 273). What emerged in the 1996 European Parliament elections for the first time – a competition between three parties of more or less equal strength – reflected what was to become the reality of Austria’s parliamentary elections in 1999. Long-term changes in the underlying structures of voting behaviour (Müller, Plasser, and Ulram 1995a) and of party competition (Müller, Plasser, and Ulram 1999), which only appeared to come to a halt during the parliamentary elections of 1995 (Plasser, Ulram, and Ogris 1996), have continued to intensify under the surface and have contributed to a political restructuring, the scale of which is unprecedented in Austria. This paper uses more recent theories and models of international electoral research (Bürklin and Klein 1998; Evans 1999; Kitschelt 1995; Falter 2000; Kaase 1999; Norris 1998; Roth 1998) to explain the transformation in Austrian voting behaviour. The first sections outline the changes witnessed in the political competition and cleavages. The following sections give an overview of current trends and patterns in Austrian voting behaviour based on data gathered from representative post-election polls and/or exit polls covering the period from 1979 to 1999.

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