Julian Bernauer, Nathalie Giger, Jan Rosset
Mind the gap: Do proportional electoral systems foster a more equal representation of women and men, poor and rich?

International Political Science Review, 2015: 36, Heft 1, S. 78-98
ISSN: 0192-5121 (print); 1460-373X (online)

Female gender and low income are two markers for groups that have been historically disadvantaged within most societies. The study explores two research questions related to their political representation: (1) ‘Are parties biased towards the ideological preferences of male and rich citizens?’; and (2) ‘Does the proportionality of the electoral system moderate the degree of under-representation of women and poor citizens in the party system?’ A multilevel analysis of survey data from 24 parliamentary democracies indicates that there is some bias against those with low income and, at a much smaller rate, women. This has systemic consequences for the quality of representation, as the preferences of the complementary groups differ. The proportionality of the electoral system influences the degree of under-representation: specifically, larger district magnitudes help in closing the considerable gap between rich and poor.