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Elections are defining elements of democracy but occur infrequently. Given that elections evoke mass mobilization, we expect citizen attachments to political parties to wax during election season and wane in between. By leveraging data from 86 countries across the globe to investigate the effect of the electoral cycle on partisanship, we find that the predicted probability of being close to a political party rises 6 percentage points from cycle midpoint to an election—an effect rivaling traditional key determinants of partisanship. Further, fluctuations are larger where the persistence of party presence throughout the cycle is weaker and socioeconomic development is lower. These findings challenge the discipline to introduce dynamic political events into the study of partisanship, alongside “static” individual-level and country-level determinants. Additionally, presumed cross-country or temporal differences in mass partisanship levels, long used as indicators of democratic consolidation or party system institutionalization, may be confounded by electoral cycle effects.

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This document was originally published in The Journal of Politics by the University of Chicago Press. Copyright restrictions may apply. doi: 10.1086/694783