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Party Distances in Israel, 1969 / מרחקים בין מפלגות בישראל, 1969

רחל טוקטלי and Rachel Tokatli
Megamot / מגמות
Vol. כ‎', No. 2 (ניסן תשל"ד / אפריל 1974), pp. 136-154
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23645826
Page Count: 19
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Party Distances in Israel, 1969 / מרחקים בין מפלגות בישראל, 1969
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Abstract

Concerning the issue of party-distances within a political system, it is interesting to understand how people living in that system perceive their "party-space", and the distance-relationships among parties competing for power in their country. Investigation of those distances as perceived from the voters' point of view, can contribute both theoretically and to political-scientists' capability to forecast voters' readiness to change sides between elections. One meaning which psychologists have attributed to the concept of "distance" refers to subjective perception of distances, determined by degrees of perceived similarity and dissimilarity. In the present article, this definition has been used to look for psychological distances among parties. Degrees of similarity and dissimilarity among parties in Israel have been investigated by studying voters' sequence of preferences and rejections of the various parties. The hypotheses tested were based on the assumption that voters' reports regarding their additional preferences and rejections can be interpreted as reports on their perception of distances between the party of their choice and the other parties. The patterns of preferences and rejections which have been found describe the Israeli political system in 1969, on the eve of the elections to the seventh Knesset. 1314 respondents made up the sample from which the data were drawn. In spite of the plurality of parties in Israel, people tend to perceive the distances between them in very few patterns. The mode is: Order of preferences: (1) Maarach; (2) Gahal; (3) Independent Liberals Order of rejections: (1) Rakah; (2) Maki Adherents of different parties show different degrees of readiness to perceive additional preferred parties in their "significant partisan scenery." However, they have no difficulty in identifying the parties they reject. A high consensus is expressed in the rejection of Rakah and Maki, both extreme communist parties. An index running from +1 to –1 has been calculated to measure on an ordinal scale distances from the starting point of each party's adherents to the other parties. In all cases, the initial distance from the chosen party to the second-preferred is much greater than the perceived distances among the several other parties. We are thus enabled to achieve statements about ordinal distance-relations from one party's voters to the others. Investigation of the reciprocal distances between pairs of parties competing in Israel in 1969 has shown that Maarach, the "sociometric star" among Israeli parties, had a relative asymetrical advantage over the other parties: Maarach adherents perceive the other parties at a farther distance than the other way round. But an argument made in the literature, according to which voters' readiness to express additional preferences decreases as their political information increases—was disproved in the present research. The more educated do not refrain from expressing additional preferences: on the contrary, they name other parties more readily. Information enhances, so it seems, the ability to distinguish among so many parties, and only when it is mixed with political involvement the way to additional preferences seems tiresome. Growing age, as expected, makes the trip to other preferences more doubtful. Young people's political attitudes are not yet formed, and they are more mobile. A person who holds a certain world-outlook tends to find it in the party of his choice; or, alternatively, people tend to adopt their party's outlook as their own. It is suggested, therefore, to map the Israeli parties according to their voters' attitudes to issues which they mentioned as relevant to the elections of 1969. These issues can be classified on three continua: the national-security, the socio-economic and the religious. In 1969 Israel, the security issues were most pronounced. Research of this kind, undertaken at different points of time, can give some hints as to the degree and direction of changes in voting patterns in the future, as circumstances change.

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