Fakultäten » Philosophische Fakultät » Politikwissenschaft, Institut für » Prof. Dr. Hanspeter Kriesi (emeritiert) » Kriesi

Completed research project

Title / Titel Making Electoral Democracy Work: Voters, Parties, and the Rules of the Game
PDF Abstract (PDF, 14 KB)
Summary / Zusammenfassung Elections and electoral rules matter. Imagine the outcome of the 2000 U.S. presidential election if Nader supporters had voted strategically for Gore rather than voting for their preferred candidate. Imagine the U.S. government’s response to Hurricane Katrina if the voter turnout of poor Americans matched that of their affluent counterparts. It matters whether people vote or not and it matters how they vote. It also matters what the electoral rules of the game are. Imagine how Canadian politics might have unfolded if the distortions in converting votes into seats produced by Canada’s electoral system had not contributed to the near-annihilation of the Progressive Conservative Party and the electoral breakthrough of two regionally-based parties (Reform in the West and the Bloc in Quebec) in the 1993 federal election.

Our project brings together an exceptional team of economists, political scientists, and psychologists from Canada, Europe, and the United States to undertake the most ambitious study ever undertaken of the impact of electoral rules on the functioning of democracy. There are three inter-related components. The first involves an intensive analysis of party strategies in twenty elections in five different countries. Our innovative approach combines qualitative and quantitative methods to throw new light on how electoral rules influence party strategies and, hence, the options that are available to voters at election time. Canada, France, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland have been chosen in order to maximize variation in electoral arrangements. The second component is a panel survey of voters in the same five countries. The same people will be interviewed in different elections at the national, sub-national, and supranational level. This will make it possible to determine how individual preferences interact with the salience and competitiveness of elections and electoral rules to shape electoral behaviour. The final component is a coordinated series of innovative experiments designed to complement the analyses of party strategies and the voter survey by explicating the underlying causal mechanisms.

This ambitious research design can only be realized by combining the skills and expertise of scholars from different backgrounds and disciplines. It requires extensive experience in both large-scale surveys and experiments, as well as skills in qualitative research. It calls for a deep understanding of the role played by utility-maximizing incentives and psychological motivations in human decision-making, as well as a profound knowledge of the functioning of electoral democracies.

The overall coherence of the project will be ensured through a number of mechanisms. First, meetings of all team members will be held for detailed planning of the data collection and to review progress and plan capstone publications. Second, an executive board comprised of the Project Director and two researchers from each of the three components will ensure ongoing oversight. Third, common data sets will be made available to the entire team. Fourth, integrative workshops will be held on an annual basis where team members discuss work in progress and present their research plans; these will lead to a series of publications in edited volumes and special issues of journals. Finally, the larger implications of our findings will be debated in an international symposium to be organized jointly with our partners.

The goal is to develop a full understanding of how electoral rules shape the dynamic and reciprocal interaction between citizens and political parties. Our research will have profound implications for understanding the relationship between the rules governing elections and the quality of democracy. The study will provide the first comparative analysis of the impact of electoral rules on party strategies, the most comprehensive assessment of the role of strategic calculations and expressive benefits in the vote calculus, and the most wide-ranging assessment ever of the implications of differing electoral arrangements for the satisfaction that citizens feel with the functioning of electoral democracy.
Project leadership and contacts /
Projektleitung und Kontakte
Prof. Hanspeter Kriesi (Project Leader)
Funding source(s) /
Unterstützt durch
In collaboration with /
In Zusammenarbeit mit
André Blais, Prof.
Département de science politique
Université de Montréal
C.P. 6128, succursale Centre-ville
Montréal, H3C 3J7
Duration of Project / Projektdauer Aug 2009 to Jul 2012