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Political Science in Europe

Multi-Dimensional Preferences for Electoral Systems. Evidence from a Conjoint Experiment

Survey Experiments
Markus Tepe
Carl Von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg
Markus Tepe
Carl Von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg
Eric Linhart
Technische Universität Chemnitz
Michael Jankowski
Carl Von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg

Electoral systems are among the most important components of any democratic constitution, as the legitimacy of the electoral system is a precondition for the legitimacy of the electoral outcome and thereby for the stability of the democratic system as such. Public debates about electoral system change, however, are often dominated by the strategic interest of political parties, or the debate is delegated to experts focusing on the technical details of the electoral system. This study rests on the assumption that each electoral system requires a broad social consensus in order to fulfill its democratic functions. Therefore, this paper asks citizens the question of which electoral system they prefer. Specifically, we rely on a representative conjoint experiment conducted in Germany during the Federal Election of 2017 in which voters were asked to choose between two electoral systems which randomly differed on a set of six attributes; proportionality, personal vote, societal acceptance, comprehensibility, openness to small parties, and effective majorities. Empirical results show that respondents have a strong preference for proportional electoral systems, which allow voting for individual candidates. These preferences are surprisingly stable for different subgroups of voters.
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