Project Goals and Investigators


The project, that is financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), investigates the potential of transnational citizenship and voting opportunities in Europe as current and future pathways contributing to reduce the distance between the people and politicians and to overcome the dichotomy between migrants and sedentary populations.

Based on normative theorizing, current empirical tendencies, and existing ideas, we develop two proposals for transnationalizing voting spaces on the European and on the national level. The first proposal lays out how voters from EU member states could vote for parties from other member states in the election to the European Parliament. The second proposal envisions that voters from other EU member states could elect (a limited number of) representatives in the national parliament of each EU member state.

With the help of a pan-European Electronic Voting Advice Application (VAA), we will gather information about the current extent of transnational voting (by external and dual citizens) and transnational campaigning of parties. Furthermore, we will also find out whether and where people and parties are willing to support and use those further opportunities for transnational voting.


Prof. Dr. Joachim Blatter, project main applicant and investigator

Dr. Diego Garzia, project co-applicant and investigator

Prof. Dr. Alexander H. Trechsel, project collaborator

Dr. Elie Michel, post-doctoral researcher

Mrs. Giada Crivelli, project assistant

Proposals for Expanding Transnational Voting in Europe

Problem Definition

The current institutional settings within the European Union – forms of governing dominated by multilateral negotiations among national governments, and elections that are focused on national constituencies –create a dilemma for politicians and parties. In elections times, they must be “responsive” to their electorate. As long as only national citizens can vote for national parties, parties are inclined to be responsive only to the interests and perspectives of this national electorate. Even worse, it often pays off to mobilize a national constituency by creating or highlighting threats from “the external other”. When politicians and parties govern, though, they must produce “responsible” policies. In the current constellation of transnational flows, interdependencies and international regulations, producing responsible policies requires to take into account transnational effects, obligations and policy interdependencies. In other words, the current political structures force parties and politicians to behave differently when they campaign and when they govern. In consequence, parties and politicians are accused of hypocrisy; their credibility and reputation suffers.


Proposed Solutions

In order to overcome the scrutinized dilemma, national politicians and parties should be enabled to realign the scope of perspective and interests they take into account in political campaigns with the scope of perspectives and interests they are concerned with when they govern. This would be the case, if voting rights and parliamentary elections would be transnationalized. The project tracks existing proposals and develops own suggestions for the transnationalization of voting rights and parliamentary elections on two levels:

  1. On the European level. For the transnationalization of voting rights and elections on the European level, a pan European electoral district has to be created in the EU parliament, and EU citizens must be allowed to vote for all parties throughout the EU. Read more
  2. On the national level. For the transnationalization of voting rights and elections on the national level, national parliaments have to create special seats for representatives of fellow Europeans, and citizens of EU member states must be enabled to elect their representatives in the parliaments of other EU member states. Read more

Current Practices and Support for Expanded Transnational Voting

In Europe, external (mono or dual) citizens are allowed to cast a vote in National and European elections beyond their country of residence. However, transnational voting varies strongly across Europe, and there exists only limited knowledge on the current practices and potential of expansion of transnational voting.


Mapping current practices and support for expanded transnational voting

Firstly, this project aims to describe and compare currently existing transnational practices of political parties and voters. We investigate to what extent political parties campaign abroad or address external citizens in national and supranational elections. Secondly, this project also collects information on the positions of political parties and voters on potential further transnational opportunities. We want to gauge the potential for transnational practices prospectively. For instance, it aims at finding out how far transnational political practices would expand if all citizens of all EU member states would be allowed to cast a transnational vote. We investigate to what extent political parties would be willing to campaign abroad, or address voters living in other EU countries, if all EU citizens could vote for them. Reciprocally, to what extent would voters be willing to cast a vote for a political party abroad if they could vote for any political party in the EU.


Explaining variance in practices and support

On the one hand, variance in transnational electoral attitudes and behaviour could be accounted for on the basis of polity-centred orientations. Parties/voters can be particularistic in respect to their identities, their feelings of obligations and/or the polities they are interested in. This means that they identify with a single nation and are just interested in the politics of their country of residence. But parties/voters can also be pluralistic or universalistic. In this case, parties recognize (both in the sense of being aware of and in the sense of acknowledging as legitimate) electorates beyond the territorial and membership boundaries of their nation state; voters identify with multiple nations or with all Europeans and they are interested in the politics of more than one nation state and in the politics on the supranational level. More transnational voting, in this case, could be explained with a comparatively stronger degree of pluralism and/or universalism in party platforms and citizen attitudes. On the other hand, we hypothesize that differences across parties/voters in terms of transnational campaigning and willingness of deepening transnational electoral practices relate to expected policy congruence. Party systems in Europe are far from well-tuned with the policy preferences of their national electorates. The willingness of voters to cast a vote abroad might be linked to this fact. In a similar vein, parties might be interested in looking abroad for voters who find their policy positions appealing.

Transnational Voting Advice Application (VAA) as Data Collection Strategy

Voting Advice Applications (hereafter: VAAs) are web-based tools that help users casting a vote in elections by comparing their policy preferences on major issues with the programmatic stances of political parties on such issues. VAAs attract users because they simplify the complex, multi-dimensional pre-electoral stances of political parties. Today, in countries such as Belgium, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland the availability of one or more VAA during an electoral campaign can be taken for granted. And they are rather extensively used by citizens. To give a few examples, in the run-up to the 2017 parliamentary election in the Netherlands, over 6 million users resorted to the pioneering VAA In absolute numbers, the German launched before the Federal elections of 2017 was consulted by the largest number of users ever, i.e., 15.7 million. VAAs are a well-known feature also of Swiss election campaigns. During the electoral campaign of the 2015 national elections the VAA was used more than 1.3 million times.

While VAAs have initially been developed at the national level, one could recently witness the appearance of transnational VAAs. For the data gathering part, our project will rely extensively on a tight collaboration with one such transnational Voting Advice Applications currently under development at the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence – as a follow-up to the successful (2009) and (2014) projects. A transnational VAA is by all means the best data gathering method to study our populations of major interest. For one thing, because VAAs code all relevant political parties on the policy issues of interest and gather the opinion of millions of voters on the same policy issues. On the other hand, VAA generated data feature a number of advantages vìs-a-vìs more traditional research tools. VAAs are able to attract a much wider number of respondents as compared to election surveys. Based on currently available figures and the upwards direction of the VAA-usage trend, we have strong reasons to believe that the dataset at our disposal will feature (at the very least) hundreds of thousands of completed user profiles. In turn, this will represent the largest dataset ever assembled on citizens' attitudes towards transnationalization of voting rights. The sheer size of the user base will allow us to study the sub-population of interests in ways that are simply unrealistic by means of traditional representative survey datasets – first and foremost because national census or registration data for dual citizens in Europe is currently unavailable.