Linking Party Preferences and the Composition of Government: A New Standard for Evaluating the Performance of Electoral Democracy

The 2018 GESIS Klingemann Prize for the Best CSES Scholarship was awarded to André Blais of the Université de Montréal, Eric Guntermann of the Université de Montréal and University of California Berkeley, and Marc André Bodet of the Université Laval for their article "Linking Party Preferences and the Composition of Government: A New Standard for Evaluating the Performance of Electoral Democracy" that was published in Political Science Research and Methods in 2017.

The authors received their prize and presented their work during a reception at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA) in Boston, United States. We are grateful that they have provided the following summary of their award-inning research.

Linking Party Preferences and the Composition of Government: A New Standard for Evaluating the Performance of Electoral Democracy

André Blais, Université de Montréal; Eric Guntermann, Université de Montréal/UC Berkeley; and Marc André Bodet, Université Laval

The goal

Elections are supposed to enhance the link between citizens’ preferences and the composition of government. Proportional representation (PR) has traditionally been assumed to strengthen that link since it allows a fair transformation of vote shares into seat shares in parliament. That assumption has been challenged in previous research (Blais and Bodet 2006; Golder and Stramski 2010) which shows that PR elections do not produce greater congruence between citizens’ and governments’ ideological orientations. We argue that elections are not only about ideology; they are first and foremost about which parties will govern. We therefore propose a new and original standard for evaluating the performance of electoral democracies: the degree of correspondence between citizens’ party preferences and the party composition of the cabinet. That standard is based on the simple (and reasonable) assumption that democracy works better when people are governed by parties that they like and not by parties they dislike.

We propose three specific criteria for assessing the correspondence between citizens’ party preferences and the party composition of the cabinet:

  • The proportion of citizens whose most preferred party is in government
  • Whether the party that is most liked overall is in government
  • How much more positively governing parties are rated than non-governing parties

Continue reading “Linking Party Preferences and the Composition of Government: A New Standard for Evaluating the Performance of Electoral Democracy”

CSES at APSA 2018

The 2018 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA) will take place in Boston, August 31 – September 3, 2018. If you’re planning to attend, you may be interested in one or more of the sessions listed below, which make use of CSES data.

This year’s conference theme is: Democracy and Its Discontents.

If you are making a presentation which makes use of CSES data and it does not appear here, please let us know via email to: cses@umich.edu.

When you arrive at APSA, please verify the below room locations in the final conference program, as they are subject to change.

Thursday, August 30, 2018


Panel: Sources of Political Knowledge

10:00 to 11:30 am, Sheraton, Beacon E
Presentation: Decentralization and the Promotion of Locally-Rooted Knowledge
Nicholas J. Clark, Susquehanna University

This paper examines the relationship between decentralization and the public’s knowledge about political affairs, theorizing that more independent regional governments may serve to promote greater political knowledge. Such decentralization brings governance closer to the average citizen, potentially mobilizing a greater sense of political efficacy and providing more opportunities for individuals to observe and learn about the political process.

Continue reading “CSES at APSA 2018”

Economic Inequality Drives Electoral Winners and Losers’ Satisfaction with Democracy

Economic Inequality Drives Electoral Winners and
Losers’ Satisfaction with Democracy
Sung Min Han and Eric C.C. Chang

Few would dispute that citizens’ support for democracy is crucial for democratic stability and consolidation, especially when populism and extremism threaten to undermine democratic ideals and values in these days. Without citizens’ strong endorsement, democracies can face legitimacy crises and may even experience democratic reversal or breakdown.

What factors can influence citizens’ attitudes toward democracy, then? Anderson and his co-authors have significantly advanced our understanding of citizens’ attitudes when they identified electoral winner-loser status to be one of most important determinants for democratic satisfaction (Anderson & Guillory, 1997; Anderson et al., 2005). How to relieve the losers’ agony regarding democracy has consequently become a major concern. According to Anderson and his co-authors, proper design of electoral systems is the key to earning the consent of electoral losers. Specifically, they suggest that proportional representation systems comfort electoral losers because they offer future coalition governments to the losing parties, allowing them to influence policy outcomes. However, Anderson et. al’ s findings have been under heavy scrutiny lately, as several recent studies have failed to find corroborating evidence for the mediating effect of electoral systems (Blais & Gélineau, 2007; Curini et al., 2012; Howell & Justwan, 2013; Singh, 2014).

In our recent work published in Electoral Studies, Economic Inequality, Winner-Loser Gap, and Satisfaction with Democracy, we argue that much of the debate over the mediating effects of electoral systems stems from overlooking the role of income inequality. We suggest that a state’s level of income inequality is the real driver behind electoral winners and losers’ satisfaction with democracy. Specifically, the socio-economically disadvantaged classes are more likely to intensify their demand for redistribution when income inequality is high. This heightened redistributive pressure induces the wealthy to be more aware of potential wealth transfer after losing an election. Under these circumstances, when either economic group (i.e., the poor or the rich) loses the election, that group’s dissatisfaction with democratic practices will be even more pronounced. The electoral winners, on the other hand, are more content with democratic practices due to their expectation of future distributive outcomes. When income parity is low, however, “the have-nots” may not express much dissatisfaction with democracy even if their parties lose, while “the haves” may be less concerned about future redistribution from electoral loss. In short, under economic parity, the winner-loser gap in satisfaction with democracy should be small. Taken together, the gap in satisfaction with democracy between electoral winners and losers widens as income inequality increases. Continue reading “Economic Inequality Drives Electoral Winners and Losers’ Satisfaction with Democracy”

Do Bad Economic Conditions Explain the Success of Radical Left Parties in Europe?

Do Bad Economic Conditions Explain the Success of
Radical Left Parties in Europe?
Raul Gómez and Luis Ramiro

While most of the literature on economic voting focuses on mainstream parties, and particularly on the incumbent party, little is known about how support for non-mainstream parties is affected by bad economic conditions. The literature on radical-right and Green parties is inconclusive, as unemployment has been found to have positive, negative or no significant effects depending on the study (Mudde 2007: 205-206; Müller-Rommel 1998). It has been often argued that these parties do not fare particularly well in contexts in which the economy becomes particularly salient because they tend to focus on values rather than economic issues (Ivarsflaten 2005).  In contrast, previous aggregate-level studies on the radical left had found a positive correlation between unemployment rates and radical-left parties’ (RLP) vote share in European countries (March and Rommerskirchen 2015). This is consistent with anecdotal evidence from the Great Recession, when RLPs fared remarkably well in countries with particularly high unemployment rates like Greece and Spain.

In our recent study published in Party PoliticsBeyond the 2008 Great Recession. Economic Factors and Electoral Support for the Radical Left in Europe, we argue that economic conditions have an unconditional impact on voters’ probability to support RLPs in Europe. This is because, unlike other non-mainstream parties, the radical left tends to focus very strongly on economic issues such as unemployment and redistribution, and this is the case even for those RLPs that have adopted a new left agenda based on socio-cultural cosmopolitan/libertarian values (Gomez et al. 2016). We therefore theorize that contexts of high unemployment will be particularly suitable for RLPs to attract new voters. We also theorize that the effect might not be the same for all voters. First, it is possible that bad economic conditions only encourage those with a leftist ideology to vote for RLPs. Conversely, as voters with weak party attachments have been shown to be more strongly influenced by economic performance (Kayser and Wlezien 2011), it is possible that economic conditions may contribute to increasing support for RLPs among less ideological voters. Lastly, we hypothesize that negative economic conditions might not help RLPs if there is a right-wing incumbent, because strategic voting could mean voters concentrate around larger mainstream left-wing parties to try and eject the government. Continue reading “Do Bad Economic Conditions Explain the Success of Radical Left Parties in Europe?”

The Bipolar Voter: On the Effects of Actual and Perceived Party Polarization on Voter Turnout in Multiparty Democracies

The Bipolar Voter: On the Effects of Actual and Perceived Party Polarization on Voter Turnout in Multiparty Democracies
Mert Moral

Although it has long been argued that both diversity and distinctiveness of party policy offerings influence electoral behavior, few studies to date have investigated the effect of political polarization on voter turnout. While comparative research on the topic is limited to a handful of studies employing aggregate-level data, previous individual-level studies focus only on the two-party system in the US.

On the one hand, some individual-level studies expect high party polarization to provide citizens with clearer cues about party positions and higher salience of policy stakes. Others, on the other hand, argue that polarization disengages citizens who are intolerant of ideological conflict. Furthermore, their findings are contingent on a number of party system- and individual-level factors that are left unexplored due to their focus on a single party system with high and rapidly increasing party, elite, and electoral polarization in recent decades. Continue reading “The Bipolar Voter: On the Effects of Actual and Perceived Party Polarization on Voter Turnout in Multiparty Democracies”

How Does Partisanship Irrationalize the Decision to Vote in Western and Postcommunist Democracies?

How Does Partisanship Irrationalize the Decision to Vote in Western and Postcommunist Democracies?
Dong-Joon Jung

The rational choice model of voting assumes that people decide whether to vote as a consequence of the calculation of the benefits and costs associated with voting (Downs 1957; Riker and Ordeshook 1968). According to the model, only those who expect the benefits they will receive to exceed the costs they have to pay would turn out to vote. Often, however, the assumption of rationality betrays the reality; people still vote even though they are clearly aware that the benefits will not be greater than the costs.

In my recent study published in Electoral Studies, Irrationalizing the Rational Choice Model of Voting: The Moderating Effects of Partisanship on Turnout Decisions in Western and Postcommunist Democracies, I focus on partisanship as one of the factors that could motivate voters to behave in such an irrational manner. Partisanship, commonly defined as one’s psychological attachments to particular political party or parties (Campbell et al., 1960), has been regarded as one of the most consistent predictors of turnout. Despite the popularity of partisanship as an independent turnout predictor in the literature, however, its interactions with the costs and benefits of voting have been underexplored. Due to its emotional aspect and influences on one’s political attitudes and behaviors, partisanship may reduce the effects of the rational components of voting. To put it differently, partisan allegiances may contribute to irrationalizing individuals’ turnout calculations. Continue reading “How Does Partisanship Irrationalize the Decision to Vote in Western and Postcommunist Democracies?”

Modes of Data Collection in the 2017 Norwegian National Election Study

Postcard from the Field

Modes of Data Collection in the 2017 Norwegian National Election Study
Bernt Aardal and Johannes Bergh

In our Postcards from the Field series CSES collaborators provide an update and commentary on election studies recently in the field.

The first Norwegian National Election Study (NNES) was conducted by Stein Rokkan and Henry Valen in connection with the 1957 parliamentary election. There was no election study in the following 1961 election. The next time around in 1965, and in every Norwegian parliamentary election since then, election studies have been carried out. As a result, the NNES is one of a handful of election studies programs globally that has time-series data that spans 60 years or more.

With the exception of the 1965, 1969 and 2001 studies, where the design included a pre- and post-election study, most studies have been based on a post-election design. From 1977 onward the design includes a rolling-panel, where half of the previous sample is re-interviewed at the next election. Since 1997 the NNES has taken an active part in the Comparative Studies of Electoral Systems (CSES) and have included all CSES modules to date.

Face-to-face interviews have been the primary mode of data collection for the NNES. For the first few decades this was the only means of interviewing respondents. In the 1990s, telephone became a possible alternative way to interview people if it was more convenient than doing it face-to-face. Gradually, telephone-interviews took up a larger share, until 2013 when close to half (45%) of the respondents replied over the phone. Continue reading “Modes of Data Collection in the 2017 Norwegian National Election Study”

Directional and Proximity Models of Party Preferences in a Cross-national Context

Directional and Proximity Models of Party Preferences
in a Cross-national Context
Bojan Todosijević

Normative theory suggests that choosing an ideologically close political party is a sign of rational political behavior. Reality, however, sometimes differs from the norm, and voters chose ideologically distant parties. The results of an examination into the macro-level factors that affect the extent to which citizens base their party preferences on ideological proximity were presented at the 7th Annual Conference of the European Political Science Association (Milan, June 22 – 24, 2017).

There are two main models that formalize the spatial connection between parties and citizens: the proximity model and the directional model. The proximity model, going back to Downs (1957) and economic theory of politics, “specifies that utility is a declining function of distance from voter to candidate (Merrill & Grofman, 1997, p. 30). The directional model, developed by Rabinowitz and Macdonald (1989), defines utility as “the product of the voter and candidate locations” (Merrill & Grofman, 1997, p. 30). For the proximity model, it is important that the voter and party are close in absolute terms. For the directional model, it is important that the voter and party are on the same side of the political divide. The further a party is on the same side, the better. Continue reading “Directional and Proximity Models of Party Preferences in a Cross-national Context”

CSES at ECPR 2017

Are you attending the 2017 general conference of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) in Oslo during September 6 – 9?  If so, you may be interested to attend one or more of the below presentations, panels and poster sessions which make use of CSES data.

If you are making a presentation which makes use of CSES data and it does not appear here, please let us know via email to: cses@umich.edu

THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 7, 2017

Panel: Measuring Rising Forms of Political Participation
Thursday September 7, 11:00 am, Building BL27 Georg Sverdrups hus Room: GS 2531

Presentation:  Mapping Online Political Participation Across Europe: A Comparative Study of How and why Europeans Get Engaged on the Internet
Wiebke Drews, European University Institute

Modern democracies are faced with stagnant or even decreasing levels of political participation, yet the advent of the Internet, and more specifically of social media, nurtured hopes about a revival of political activism because they decrease transaction and participation costs. The paper is a comparative study of how Europeans participate on the Internet by investigating different forms of engagement (quality) and their frequency (quantity). Moreover, it explains cross-national diversity by connecting micro-level aspects of resources and demographics with macro-level institutional factors.

Panel: Expressing Dissatisfaction
Thursday September 7, 3:50 pm, BL20 Helga Engs hus Room: HE U35

Presentation: Don’t Forget the Supply Side: Dissatisfaction, Volatility, and the Anti-Establishment Vote
Remko Voogd, University of Amsterdam; Ruth Dassonneville, University of Montreal

This paper connects three very pronounced developments that have been taking place in most Western Democracies over the last decades: ‘increasing distrust in political actors’, ‘rising electoral volatility’ and ‘growing support for anti-establishment parties’. Empirically it has been observed that political disaffection motivates voters to increasingly start to switch their voting choices. At the same time, dissatisfied voters are also said to be the most likely voters of anti-establishment parties in whom they find a voice against the established political forces whom they distrust. While there is some general evidence for both propositions on the individual level, we argue that they might also be contradictory under certain supply side conditions. Continue reading “CSES at ECPR 2017”

CSES at APSA 2017

Are you attending the 2017 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA) in San Francisco during August 31 – September 3?  If so, you may be interested to attend one or more of the below presentations, panels and poster sessions which make use of CSES data.

This year’s conference theme is: The Quest for Legitimacy: Actors, Audiences and Aspirations

If you are making a presentation which makes use of CSES data and it does not appear here, please let us know via email to: cses@umich.edu


FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 1, 2017

Panel: Media Diversity and Media Freedom
Friday September 1, 8:00 to 9:30am, Hilton Union Square, Continental Parlor 2

Presentation:  Increasing Media Diversity and Political Knowledge Gaps: A Longitudinal Study
Atle Haugsgjerd, University of Oslo; Stine Hesstvedt, University of Oslo; Rune Karlsen, Institute for Social Research

Recent dramatic events such as the “Brexit” referendum in England and the electoral victory of Trump in the US election testify to the dramatic impact of an increasing gap between “insiders” accustomed to modern politics and “outsiders” feeling detached from the political system. We investigate what role the disruptive changes in the political communication systems play in this process. Combining CSES survey data with media system data (level of media diversity) we study if polarization in political knowledge has increased in the period from the mid-1990s until today and the role of media fragmentation. Continue reading “CSES at APSA 2017”