One of the most significant trends in electoral behavior among Western democracies is increasing electoral volatility. According to the most recent elections in Sweden, for example, the number of voters who changed parties increased from 25 percent between the 1988-1991 elections to 40 percent between the 2014-2018 elections. Even changing parties during the elections has increased over the last decades, from 7 per cent during the elections of 1968 to 17 per cent in the elections of 2014.
Although there is a lot of research showing that electoral volatility between and during the elections has increased, research that explores different types of electoral volatility is relatively scarce. Research on the importance of voters' political knowledge for their changing vote preferences has also come to different results, which means that our understanding of the importance of political knowledge for electoral volatility is limited.
It is against this background that we examined the existence of different types of electoral volatility and the importance of voters' political knowledge in this context. The study is based on a four-wave panel survey conducted during the last five months before the 2014 Swedish national election.
In the article, we distinguish between five types of electoral volatility: reinforcement (expressing sympathy for the same party throughout the election campaign), conversion (changing parties during the election campaign), crystallization (shifting from having no party reference to acquiring one), wavering (changing party preference several times or switching multiple times from not having a party preference to acquiring one), and alienation (never expressing a party reference).
Among other things, the results show that the largest group (58 percent) consists of those who express sympathy for the same party throughout the election campaign, while the second largest group (19 percent) consists of those who wandering between several parties. The third largest group (15 percent) consists of those who converted, changed their preference from one party to another.
With regard to the importance of political knowledge, we distinguish between political knowledge acquired before the election (stored political knowledge) and political knowledge acquired during election (acquired political knowledge). Here the results show that what is important is political knowledge gained during the election process, which proves to have a positive effect on crystallization.