Previous studies have portrayed the personalization of politics as a consequence of the changes in the electoral market and the resulting transformations at the party level. However, empirical research has not reached a consensus on the extent to which this process has actually exerted its impact on citizens’ voting calculus. Partisan identifications appear still central in voters’ behavior, whereas party leader evaluations seem to play only a marginal role. This paper tries to examine the electoral consequences of the personalization of politics employing an alternative perspective. In particular, we concentrate on the role played by leader evaluations in shaping voters’ feelings of identification with parties. Our case study focuses on the Italian case, a prototype of personalized parliamentary democracy. In the empirical section, we examine the ways in which leaders have influenced Italian voters’ behavior in the last two decades. The results show that the electoral effect of party leaders (once the mediating effect of party identification is taken into account) has steadily increased during the time frame under analysis.
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