Permissibility of electoral systems and in particular the conversion of a plethora of voices in the electorate to the legislature is broadly considered to depend on the number of seats per district (district magnitude) in a country. Yet the most prevalent electoral system in the democratic world, proportional representation with districts, is often characterized by an almost entirely overlooked variation: within the same country districts vary in their magnitude, sometimes by a factor of twenty. How does such variation affect permissibility of electoral systems? Drawing on a broad cross-section of democracies, we demonstrate that contrary to what the literature implicitly assumes, other things equal, a combination of large and small districts results in greater permissibility than a set of districts of similar magnitude. We find that where districts are of similar (different) magnitude the degree of permissibility is lower (higher) than that found by current literature.
We develop and apply a new conceptual framework and measure for evaluating electoral systems, focusing on (in)equality in parliamentary representation. Our main arena of interest is proportional representation with districts, an electoral system employed by more than half of democratic states, and we draw on an almost entirely overlooked fact: Electoral regimes vary substantially within countries, with some voters casting their ballot in semi-majoritarian districts of few representatives and others in large and proportional ones. This within-country institutional variation, we contend, affects representational (in)equality. Evaluating equality in parliamentary representation, we demonstrate that districted proportional representation often leads to overrepresentation of voters supporting right-leaning parties. Utilizing district-level data from 20 Western parliamentary democracies and complementing our within-country approach with a cross-country analysis, we further show that where parliaments are elected by large and small districts, representational inequality among voters is greater compared with countries in which parliament is elected by even-magnitude districts.
This article offers organizing principles to an emerging research agenda that analyses how parliamentary politics affects voter considerations. It uses the process by which votes are turned into policy as a unifying framework: every step in the process poses incentives for voters and encourages different types of strategic behaviour by voters. The standard version of strategic voting commonly found in analyses of voter choice is about the step familiar from the Anglo-American model – the allocation of seats based on votes – yet insights about voter behaviour originated from that model have been inadvertently reified and assumed to apply universally. The article identifies a set of empirical implications about the likelihood of voters employing policy-oriented strategies under different circumstances.
We demonstrate that the use of self-reported turnout data often results in misleading inferences about racial differences in turnout. We theorize about the mechanism driving report of turnout and, utilizing ANES turnout data in presidential elections from 1976 to 1988 (all years for which comparable validated data are available), we empirically model report of turnout as well as the relationship between reported and actual turnout. We apply the model to the two subsequent presidential elections in which validated data are not available, 1992 and 1996. Our findings suggest that African Americans turned out almost 20 percentage points less than did Whites in the 1992 and 1996 U.S. presidential elections—almost double the gap that the self-reported data indicates. In contrast with previous research, we show that racial differences in factors predicting turnout make African Americans less likely to vote compared to Whites and thus increase their probability of overreporting. At the same time, when controlling for this effect, other things equal, African Americans overreport electoral participation more than Whites.
This book proposes an institutionally embedded framework for analyzing voter choice. Voters, Orit Kedar argues, are concerned with policy, and therefore their vote reflects the path set by political institutions leading from votes to policy. Under this framework, the more institutional mechanisms facilitating post-electoral compromise are built into the political process (e.g., multi-party government), the more voters compensate for the dilution of their vote. This simple but overlooked principle allows Kedar to explain a broad array of seemingly unrelated electoral regularities and offer a unified framework of analysis, which she terms compensatory vote. Kedar develops the compensatory logic in three electoral arenas: parliamentary, presidential, and federal. Leveraging on institutional variation in the degree of power sharing, she analyzes voter choice, conducting an empirical analysis that brings together institutional and behavioral data in a broad cross section of elections in democracies.
Inspired by analyses of majoritarian systems, students of consensual polities have analyzed strategic voting due to barriers to party success, namely, district magnitude and threshold. Given the prevalence of coalition governments in proportional systems, we analyze a type of strategic voting seldom studied: how expected coalition composition affects voter choice. We identify Duvergerian behavior by voters targeted at the coalition formation stage. We contend that when voters perceive their preferred party as unlikely to participate in the coalition, they often desert it and instead support the lesser of evils among those they perceive as viable coalition partners. We demonstrate our argument using data on coalition expectations from the 2006 Israeli elections. We find an appreciable albeit differential effect of coalition expectations on voter choice. Importantly, results hold controlling for ideological and coalition preferences. Lastly, we explore a broad cross-national comparison, showing that there is less, not more, proximity voting where coalitions are prevalent.
This work provides a general framework for analysis of issue voting across democratic polities. Unlike current frameworks of analysis for issue voting, I argue that voters are concerned not only with party positions, but also with policy outcomes. This simple principle carries implications for voter choice under various institutional environments. In consensual parliamentary systems, taking into consideration the bargaining built into policy formation process in the parliament, voters often endorse parties whose positions differ from their own views. In presidential elections, incorporating the compromise between the president and the legislature into their decision making, voters adjust their vote, balancing the two institutions against one another. Finally, in federal systems, voters engage in vertical balancing, utilizing state elections to balance the federal government. I illustrate the latter implication analyzing election returns from Germany between 1965 and 2002.
This work develops and tests a theory of voter choice in parliamentary elections. I demonstrate that voters are concerned with policy outcomes and hence incorporate the way institutions convert votes to policy into their choices. Since policy is often the result of institutionalized multiparty bargaining and thus votes are watered down by power-sharing, voters often compensate for this watering-down by supporting parties whose positions differ from (and are often more extreme than) their own. I use this insight to reinterpret an ongoing debate between proximity and directional theories of voting, showing that voters prefer parties whose positions differ from their own views insofar as these parties pull policy in a desired direction. Utilizing data from four parliamentary democracies that vary in their institutional design, I test my theory and show how institutional context affects voter behavior.
I analyze how the diffusion of power in parliaments affects voter choice. Using a two-step research design, I first estimate an individual-level model of voter choice in 14 parliamentary democracies, allowing voters to hold preferences both for the party most similar to them ideologically and for the party that pulls policy in their direction. While in systems in which power is concentrated the two motivations converge, in consensual systems they diverge: since votes will likely be watered down by bargaining in the parliament, outcome-oriented choice in consensual systems often leads voters to endorse parties whose positions differ from their own views. In the second step, I utilize institutional measures of power diffusion in the parliament to account for the degree to which voters in different polities pursue one motivation versus the other. I demonstrate that the more power diffusion and compromise built into the political system via institutional mechanisms, the more voters compensate for the watering down of their vote by endorsing parties whose positions differ from their own views.