Do the options offered help determine the answers given? The impact of response option effects on answers to party closeness questions in two post-European Election Surveys, 20041

Lukáš Linek (linek@soc_cas_cz)
Pat Lyons (pat.lyons@soc_cas_cz)

There has been much scholarly debate over the measurement of party identification and the degree to which closeness to parties is an enduring stable attitude.  This research investigates an important puzzle where two post-European election surveys undertaken during June 2004 yield significantly different estimates of citizen closeness to political parties.  The key difference between both survey projects was the implementation of middle response options.  This question format change did not have uniform effects.  In these two countries there were relatively few differences in estimates of party closeness.  However, in a majority of countries this methodological change had significant effects.  In eleven EU member states estimates of party closeness increased: while in nine others it declined.  Such evidence suggests that European citizens’ closeness to parties is not fixed, and the dynamics of party identification have an important contextual component.  Building on this insight we argue in this paper that the differences in estimates of party closeness observed tells us important things about the nature of party identification in contemporary Europe.