Inverted First- and Second-Order Elections

The Israeli Case

in Israel Studies Review

While national government elections are perceived as first order institutions that result in relatively high turnout rates, local elections are viewed as second-order institutions and are usually characterized by low turnout rates. We claim that this behavior is conditioned by the stakes that voters associate with elections as well as the voters' relative position in the socio-ethnic stratification structure. In this article we show that such conditions may yield an inversion in voters' perspectives. In other words, voters who are alienated from national government institutions and who are effectively mobilized by leaders of their socio-ethnic groups, which have high stakes in second-order institutions, tend to invert their preference with regard to the significance of elections. In such instances, national elections become second-order elections, and local elections become first-order elections. We use ballot-box level data from two national and two local elections in Israel to test this theory.