Voter Election Frames: What were the Elections about?

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Abstract

How do citizens think about elections? Building on democratic theory, political psychology and political communication theories, we conceptualize how voters interpret elections in terms of election frames, and explore the interplay between them and media frames. Election frames are deduced from the empirical and normative body of work on elections and democracy and they are tracked empirically through in-depth interviews with citizens, carried out during the 2009 parliamentary elections in Israel. The article highlights three major findings. First, all election frames are represented in people's reasoning about elections, but there is considerable variability in their usage, and they are usually applied in rudimentary form. Second, the frames vary over different political contexts. And third, the public does not seem to absorb passively frames from the media, but rather plays an active role in the process of election interpretation, relying on diverse sources. It is proposed in the article that publics' election interpretations are an important aspect of politics that should be placed on political scientists' research agenda.

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