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”

Coping with Complexity: How Voters Adapt to Unstable Parties

The 2017 GESIS Klingemann Prize for the Best Scholarship using CSES data was awarded to Dani Marinova of the Autonomous University of Barcelona for her book "Coping with Complexity: How Voters Adapt to Unstable Parties" that was published by ECPR Press in 2016.

The author received the prize and presented her work during a reception at the 7th Annual General Conference of the European Political Science Association (EPSA) in Milan, Italy. She kindly contributed the following synopsis of her work.

Coping with Complexity: How Voters Adapt to Unstable Parties
Dani Marinova

Nearly five decades ago Carl Friedrich remarked: “Party development is more highly dynamic than any other sphere of political life; there is no final rest, no ultimate pattern… Rather, there is constant change in one direction or another” (1968, p. 452). With new parties emerging across the continent and existing ones reshuffling, Friedrich’s remarks are as true today as ever.  In Coping with Complexity I investigate how party changes — when parties emerge, fuse, split and die off — shape voter decision-making at the ballot box.

The gist of my argument is that parties are central to structuring and communicating electoral information. They organize messy information about ideology, policy goals and governing competences into a coherent set of electoral alternatives. Thanks to the informational cues that parties offer, voters are able to access information at a low cognitive cost. When parties undergo abrupt organisational changes, however, they profoundly alter the supply of electoral information. The electoral alternatives on the ballot are no longer fixed but need to be actively sought out. Voters need to do more of the work in acquiring, attributing and processing electoral information. Continue reading “Coping with Complexity: How Voters Adapt to Unstable Parties”

When do the Rich Vote Less than the Poor and Why? Explaining Turnout Inequality Across the World

The 2016 GESIS Klingemann Prize for the Best Scholarship using CSES data was awarded to Kimuli Kasara of Columbia University and Pavithra Suryanarayan of Johns Hopkins University for their paper "When do the rich vote less than the poor and why? Explaining turnout inequality across the world" that was published in the American Journal of Political Science in 2015.

The authors received the prize and presented their work during a reception at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA) in Philadelphia, USA on September 2, 2016.  They kindly contributed the following synopsis of their work.

 

When do the Rich Vote Less than the Poor and Why?
Explaining Turnout Inequality Across the World
Kimuli Kasara and Pavithra Suryanarayan

Arendht Liphart observed that “voter turnout is an excellent indicator of democratic quality” in part because he believed that the poor and socially marginal were less likely to vote (Lijphart 1999).  Lower rates of electoral participation by the economically disadvantaged, while being normatively undesirable in a democracy, also have implications for the types of parties that win elections and the policies politicians will implement once in office. For these reasons, turnout inequality has been central to the study of both political behavior and political economy. For instance, the idea that the poor participate less has been used to explain why we might not observe an expansion in redistribution after democratization as canonical political economy models predict.

Most early research on socio-economic status (SES) and voting focused on voting behavior in advanced industrialized countries where it is often the case that the wealthy vote at higher rates than the poor. Our research began with the observation that income and turnout are often negatively correlated in the contexts we study – South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. This “inverse” relationship between SES and voting has been documented in isolated studies in both regions as well as in Eastern Europe. Our paper,  “When Do the Rich Vote Less Than the Poor and Why?: Explaining Turnout Inequality across the World  (American Journal of Political Science, 2015), is the first to systematically document that “inverse” turnout inequality is not rare using data on 76 countries from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) and other survey sources.  This figure from our paper, which maps the ratio of turnout rates of the wealthiest 20% in a country to turnout of the poorest 20%, shows variation in the relationship between wealth and turnout. Continue reading “When do the Rich Vote Less than the Poor and Why? Explaining Turnout Inequality Across the World”