What's in voters' minds?: economic conditions and identity issues in Korean and Taiwanese elections
This dissertation studies the effect of both personal and national economic evaluations and social identity on individual vote choice in both Korea and Taiwan by utilizing and improving upon information-processing models developed in social psychology. Economic voting literature generally makes a strong claim that economic voting should affect individual voting behavior in all contexts. Information-processing models suggest, however, that attitudes about certain issues must be available and accessible, and that candidates must be distinctive on these issues, in order to have a bearing on individual behavior. I explain the varying effects of economic conditions and social identity on individual vote choice across elections and individuals in the two countries on the basis of changes in the accessibility of attitudes toward economic conditions and social identity and the distinctiveness of alternatives. Empirical findings in this dissertation show that (1) economic voting has a surprisingly limited explanatory power in both Korea and Taiwan, (2) individual political preferences are shaped less by self-interest or material well-being than by emotional attachment to social identity in a society where ethnocultural cleavages predominate politics, and (3) individual voters respond differently to short-term economic fluctuations, depending on their levels of education and their lifetime economic experiences. My study provides a new perspective on the nature and influence of economic conditions and identity issues on individual vote choice by accounting for variations in individuals and the political and social context in which they are situated.