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Political Research Exchange - PRX

Preferences for Electoral Reform in Germany

Survey Experiments
Evelyn Bytzek
Universität Koblenz-Landau
Evelyn Bytzek
Universität Koblenz-Landau

The German electoral system faces criticism: In the 2013 general election 15.7% of the second votes did not count since they were given to parties who could not overcome the five-percent hurdle. In the 2017 general election, the Bundestag grew to 709 MPs because of compensation mandates. This leads to a discussion about a (renewed) reform of the German electoral system. However, reform is far from easy since the core requirements of electoral systems (concentration, representation, legitimacy, participation, simplicity) cannot be achieved simultaneously. As a result, a reform of the electoral system will need to highlight and primarily pursue few of these goals. One factor remains largely unnoticed in the current discussion: How do citizens evaluate different reform options and what do these assessments depend on? This is surprising in that the evaluation of an electoral system by the population is essential, in particular for the legitimacy of elections and election results. The question of evaluating different reform options will be addressed in the proposed paper. For this purpose, a series of online survey experiments is conducted assessing attitudes towards the conflicting goals of concentration vs. representation and participation vs. simplicity. It also examines whether political sophistication, preferences (such as a bias towards the party proposing the reform) and general attitudes towards electoral systems have an impact on the assessments of electoral system reforms.
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