Making Electoral Democracy Work

Research question/goal: 

The project brings together a team of economists, political scientists, and psychologists from Canada, Europe, and the United States to undertake the most ambitious study ever undertaken on the impact of electoral rules on the functioning of democracy. The goal of the project is to develop a better understanding of how electoral rules shape the dynamic and reciprocal interaction between citizens and political parties. The project’s 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.

There are three inter-related data sources. The first one 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. The Mannheim research team is responsible for the German data collection.

Current stage: 

We completed the data collection efforts for this project. In addition, we worked on the book manuscript that draws together the results in terms of party strategies and voting behaviour in multilevel electoral systems. Moreover, we published two further research articles on turnout and strategic voting. In addition, we rewrote and submitted two more manuscripts that relate to negativity in campaigns and a field experiment with German MPs.

Fact sheet

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
2011 to 2017
Data Sources: 
secondary analysis, panel survey, experiments
Geographic Space: 
Canada, France, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland



Golder, Sona, Ignacio Lago, André Blais, Elisabeth Gidengil and Thomas Gschwend (2017): Multi-Level Electoral Politics. Beyond the Second-Order Election Model. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Comparative Politics] more