Party-switching Between Elections is Influenced by Polarization, not the Number of Parties

Party-switching Between Elections is Influenced by Polarization,           not the Number of Parties
Yves Dejaeghere and Ruth Dassonneville

In 1979 Mogens Pedersen published a seminal paper in which he analyzed the impact of party-system variables on inter-electoral volatility. By means of an analysis of aggregate data from over 100 elections, he concluded that the number of parties increases volatility. Although Pedersen tested his hypothesis with the best data available at the time, they were actually not ideal to do so, as he indicated himself that his hypotheses implied ‘a test on the basis of individual level data’ (Pedersen, 1979: 16).

Switching parties between two elections is clearly something that needs to be investigated at the individual level. Using raw election results does not allow the researcher to know how many people actually switched from one party to another or from abstention to voting. As a result, the ideal data to investigate what party-system variables drive party-switching (and not turnout or the vote choice of new voters) are comparative individual-level survey data.

Only recently, such data have become available, as a recall question asking the respondents their previous electoral choice was added to the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) questionnaire as of the second wave. Even though we have to take into account the limitations of recall data, they allow operationalizing vote switching at an individual level. Making use of such an operationalization, we can investigate what elements of the party-system influence the probability that individual voters switch parties between elections? We investigate this by means of an analysis of almost 30,000 voters in 33 elections. Continue reading “Party-switching Between Elections is Influenced by Polarization, not the Number of Parties”

Does Space Matter? Explaining Abstention because of Indifference and Alienation

Does Space Matter?
Explaining Abstention because of Indifference and Alienation

Toni Rodon

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It), the following work was presented at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA). The presentation, “Does Space Matter? Explaining Abstention because of Indifference and Alienation”, was part of a session dedicated to research using Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) data. The session, “Comparative Perspectives on Political Behaviour: Novel insights using the CSES”, was on September 4, 2016.

The concept of the ‘centre’ is overwhelmingly present in current political discourse. Labelling a candidate or party as left, right or centre is crucial to attracting voters, and highlighting this identifying factor is often employed during political debates to emphasise differences between candidates. This distinction is often raised by emerging political movements and constantly emphasised as a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for parties seeking to win an election. Discussion about the centre in political science research has not been an exception. Since Downs’ (1957) seminal work on ideology in political decision-making, the effects of convergence towards the centre, and similarly polarization, constitute a cornerstone in political science research.

Following the Downsian approach, the effect of this ideological distance has been employed multiple times in order to explain voting behaviour. Notwithstanding this popularity, a surprising gap remains: the impact of ideological distance on abstention. While the effect of ideological distance on voting for a particular party has been a popular tool, its effect on abstention has largely been ignored. This is despite the fact that in previous work Downs himself, as well as Enelow and Hinich (1984), have suggested that individuals may abstain from voting when a party’s priorities or values do not represent voters, otherwise known as “abstention because of alienation”. Voters may also abstain because of indifference between political alternatives that offer the same ideological package. Continue reading “Does Space Matter? Explaining Abstention because of Indifference and Alienation”

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”

New research synopsis: Do citizens value fairness in the electoral competition?

Do citizens value fairness in the electoral competition?
Benjamin Ferland

Do citizens value fairness in the electoral competition? This is a central question that has interested scholars over the last decade. As we know, proportional electoral (PR) systems favour a more accurate translation of votes into seats while majoritarian systems have the tendency to “waste” the votes of many citizens. Inter alia, therefore, proportional representation electoral systems have the benefit of representing the voice of more citizens in legislatures and in the policy-making process. Scholars have thus assumed that citizens also share and even support this view of inclusiveness in the democratic process. What is puzzling, however, is that empirical results do not support such view. The relationship between a proportional votes-seats translation at elections and citizens evaluating positively the functioning of their democracy is at best tenuous. Why do we observe this disconnection between our normative expectations of inclusion and diversity in legislatures and such null empirical findings? Furthermore, if citizens do not value fairness in the electoral competition, why might this be? I tackle these questions using the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) data in A rational or a virtuous citizenry? The asymmetric impact of biases in votes-seats translation on citizens’ satisfaction with democracy, published in Electoral Studies.

Politics as a competition between groups

A different approach is to conceive the democratic process, and elections in particular, as a competition between different groups, which want to influence the allocation of political and economic resources in society. In casting a vote, we should keep in mind that a citizen participates in this resource allocation by favouring one party over the others. This view of electoral politics is consistent, for example, with recent experimental studies that show that people tend to favour supporters of their partisan group (over non-supporters) when distributing a given some of money in series of dictator games. Overall, if we accept this view of electoral politics, our assumption about how electoral systems and especially the votes-seats translation may affect citizens’ assessment of their political system may be revised. From this perspective, instead of valuing fairness in the electoral competition, citizens should want their party to be advantaged in the electoral competition and the other parties to be disadvantaged. In other words, a citizen should prefer her party to receive a greater share of seats than votes and the other parties to receive a smaller proportion of seats than votes. Continue reading “New research synopsis: Do citizens value fairness in the electoral competition?”