Innovating in election surveys: social network analysis to go beyond individual-level data

  • Paulis, Emilien (ULB)


The analysis of electoral behaviour is at the heart of political science. For a while now, election surveys have been used in many ways to measure, analyse and better understand how citizens make their voting choices. Over time, surveys became the most common and traditional sources of data on election for political scientists around the world. Nonetheless, these surveys have often heavily focused on individuals and ignored their environment, i.e. the social and political networks of respondents. There are some exceptions to this, most notably the American National Election Study (ANES), which network measurements imported from Social Network Analysis. These questions contributed to put forward the relational dimension of social capital (Burt 2000, Klofstad et al. 2009), and how electoral behaviour might be influenced by peers (Knoke 1994, Huckfeldt et al. 2004, McClurg 2012). The proposed paper is based on an online survey using network instruments to account for political participation of Belgian citizens (N=2,800). It aims at proposing a new set of tools that could be implemented in the framework of Belgian election surveys. Generating relational data through election surveys may constitute a methodological innovation, but also potentially a theoretical one, by allowing to go beyond traditional socio-demographic and attitudinal explanations of political choices.