To compare party identification cross-nationally in Europe, we need to analyse both individual and contextual characteristics that influence individuals during processes of learning and socialisation. Although numerous papers on the strength and occurrence of party identifications in Western European countries were published, a comprehensive cross-national analysis of party identifications in Europe has not been carried out yet. The thesis aims at testing the explanatory power of individual characteristics such as interest in politics, contextual variables such as polarisation and the intermediate level characteristic party family on the individual strength of party identification across 27 European countries. Comparable ESS data are used to examine the strength of party identification of nearly 60,000 European citizens.The ordered logistic multilevel regression analysis reveals that individual or level 1 characteristics prove to have the strongest positive effect on partisan strength, among those interest in politics, trust and cognitive mobilisation. Contextual variables like polarisation, fragmentation and maturity of democracy exhibit important yet slightly weaker influence. Accordingly, highly polarised societies and party systems in Europe as well as highly fragmented party systems foster strong party identifications. Party family, however, plays only a minor role in explaining partisan strength. In conclusion, party identification is a widespread feature in both Eastern and Western Europe that is triggered by the same factors in both parts. Hence, party identification is a concept widely understood and internalised by European citizens, thus making it a suitable and convenient tool for the study of political attitudes among the general public.
Key words: party identification, partisan strength, contextual, individual, life-time learning model, party family, multilevel model, ordinal response, social capital, cognitive mobilisation, trust, polarisation, disproportionality, fragmentation, maturity of democracy, society, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, European Social Survey