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Ballot structure and satisfaction with democracy

Agusti Bosch
Lluis Orriols
Carlos III-Juan March Institute of Social Sciences – IC3JM
Open Panel

Abstract

This paper analyses the influence of ballot structure over satisfaction with democracy. In line with Farrell and McAllister (2006), we hypothesize that some ballot structures – such as preferential ballots – generate more satisfaction with democracy than closed ones. This is because open ballot structures give voters more room to decide and – according to Carey and Shugart (1995) – they encourage the ‘representative role’ of MPs. Yet, we expect these differences to be especially relevant among the more knowledgeable electorate, since any open ballot structure requires more sophisticated voters. The paper uses survey data from the Comparative Study of Election Systems (CSES) and aggregate data on the electoral system and institutional arrangements. Accordingly, we use multilevel models to account for the multilayer structure of the data. Our preliminary results indicate that preferential and open list ballots do indeed generate more satisfaction than others. However, we do not find a clear and parsimonious relation between ballot openness and satisfaction with democracy as some previous research seems to suggest. Our preliminary findings rather suggest that is personalized ballot the only ballot structure that generates less satisfaction than most of the remaining types of ballot. Our findings also seem to indicate that the more knowledgeable the voter is the greater satisfaction preferential ballots generate vis-à-vis most remaining ballots. The liberty of choice that ballot structure offers only concerns a reduced portion of the electorate, namely the more politically sophisticated one.