The purpose of representative democracy is to provide citizens with a possibility to express their political preferences through elected representatives in the democratic arena. The composition of representative bodies may, however, differ considerably depending on the electoral system. Different electoral systems set different incentives for the behavior of parties, voters, and legislators. Hence, the potential consequences of electoral systems are manifold and can affect the structure of the political system as a whole. While earlier research often focused on the comparison of radically different electoral systems, such as first-past-the-post vs. proportional representation, scholars have recently begun to pay more attention on the consequences of more fine-grained electoral system differences.
This Section focuses on the question of how electoral systems have an impact on political representation. Panels will address the following topics:
Electoral Systems and Group Representation
Various studies demonstrate a large degree of heterogeneity with regard to the (descriptive) representation of certain societal groups in parliaments. The proportion of women in legislatures, for example, differs quite drastically between countries and diverse tiers of government. It is, however, still unclear how electoral systems affect the numerical representation of certain societal groups. Are some electoral systems more favorable for the representation of minorities? Moreover, contributions may also address the question of how electoral systems affect the substantive representation of certain groups.
Preferences for Electoral Systems
Despite being a fundamental institutional factor of every democracy, we know very little about the public preferences for certain types of electoral systems. While some interest groups rally for more personalized electoral systems, there are almost no studies that have analyzed the public preferences for specific electoral systems in more detail. This question is particularly important as electoral systems usually involve trade-offs. For example, the more proportional an electoral system is, the less likely it is to produce clear majorities. When an electoral system is judged as unfair or ineffective by the public, this may have drastic consequences for citizens’ faith in democracy as a whole. Therefore, we are strongly interested in analysing the relationship between public preferences and voting rules.
Electoral Systems and Electoral Behavior
The design of electoral systems defines how voters can cast their vote(s). There are various potential consequences of electoral systems on electoral behavior. Even small differences between electoral systems might have a strong impact on voting behavior. We are interested in the question of how electoral systems influence the behavior of voters. This includes studies that analyze the impact of electoral systems on turnout as well as on party and candidate choice.
Electoral Systems and Legislative Behavior
By defining how and for whom voters can cast their votes, electoral systems also determine how legislators are elected to parliament. For example, it is often assumed that more personalized electoral systems produce more responsive legislators and candidates as they have to rely more strongly on personal-vote earning strategies. Our session will analyze this relationship between electoral systems and legislative behavior in more detail.
Comparative analysis as well as single case studies, following different methodological approaches with a preference for quantitative methods will be presented, Researchers will be applying innovative techniques of data collection or data analysis and these units of analysis can be individual voters or legislators as well aggregates such as parties, governments, states or sub-national units. There will be no geographical or temporal limitation as far as objects of analysis are concerned, and ,both cross-sectional and longitudinal designs may be explored.