Elections in Western Europe since 1815

Description of the Data on CD-ROM


This CD-ROM contains the election results of 18 Western European countries from the nineteenth century until the last published election by 1999. The earliest election collected is the 1815 Norwegian election. Results have been collected at the level of the single constituencies. The information collected concerns the electorate, actual voters, and votes for single parties or candidates and is available in absolute figures and percentages (percentage distribution of votes by parties and percentage distribution of party votes by constituencies). A complete documentation accompanies the collection as described below. The documentation can be accessed on CD-ROM.

This CD-ROM supplements the handbook which users are advised to consult while using the CD-ROM. The handbook is structured in two main parts. Part I includes three comparative chapters on the development of elections in Europe and on the territorial structure of the vote. Part II contains 18 country chapters which give details on the evolution of electoral systems, on the organization of constituencies, dates of elections, political parties, and the available sources on election results.


Countries. The countries included in this collection are the following: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom (which includes Britain and Ireland for 1832-1918 and Britain and Northern Ireland since 1922).

Time. The period of time covered by results files varies from country to country according to their historical development and the available sources. Austria: 1873, Belgium: 1848, Denmark: 1848, Finland: 1907, France: 1910, Germany: 1871, Greece: 1926, Iceland: 1874, Ireland: 1922 (under UK for 1832-1918), Italy: 1861, Luxemburg: 1919, Netherlands: 1888, Norway: 1815, Portugal: 1975, Spain: 1977, Sweden: 1866, Switzerland: 1848, United Kingdom: 1832.

Elections. The collection includes results of national legislative elections for the lower houses of parliament also in case of partial elections (for example, the renewal by half of the lower houses in Belgium and Luxemburg). The collection does not include the results of elections to regional, provincial, or communal bodies; referenda and other types of direct democracy vote; elections to senates, houses of regional representation or chambers of higher estates; or by-elections.

Levels of aggregation. Results have been collected at the level of constituencies. For example, Wahlkreise in Germany, parliamentary constituencies in the United Kingdom, valkretsar in Sweden, círculos eleitorais in Portugal, cantons in Switzerland and so on. In some cases, data are available at more precise levels (for example, the provinces in Italy). The level of the constituencies is only one of the many levels of aggregation of the data provided by this collection. For each country several possibilities of aggregating results into larger regions or administrative units exist, offering the possibility to combine election results with a large amount of other types of information and datasets.

Parties. Political parties have been selected when they poll at least five per cent of the total nation-wide vote or at least five per cent of the vote within at least one constituency.

Sources. Data have been collected mainly from official sources. In many cases, especially for the earlier periods, only secondary sources were available. The list of sources contains both types of sources for each country.

Types of information

Two main types of information can be found on this CD-ROM: 1) data, that is, election results; and 2) the documentation.


Data have been completely computerized and standardized. The standardization of the information and the general solutions adopted for specific problems (for example, uncontested constituencies, missing data, etc.) allow for broad comparisons across countries and historical periods. On the CD-ROM data are available in full in different forms to provide users with a large range of options to read and use the data.

The basic files contain election results by constituencies. Results are available in different types of figures: 1) absolute figures by constituencies, 2) distribution of votes by parties (percentages), and 3) parties’ vote distribution by constituencies or other units (percentages).

All this information is available in three computerized formats:

  1. SPSS
  2. Excel
  3. SAS

Finally, the data are available in three main different file structures:

  1. horizontal structure (election years and parties as variables and constituencies as cases),
  2. vertical structure (the basic cases are parties by constituencies and election years), and
  3. mixed structure (variables are election years and cases are parties and constituencies).


A thorough documentation accompanies the data. Two types of documentation exist:

1. Institutional context information

For each country the general documentation concerns the seven following topics:

evolution of electoral laws: displays schematically the main changes in electoral systems over the period of time covered by the result files;
dates and type of elections are given (general election, election to constituent assembly, etc.);
evolution of party systems: displays in the form of 'trees' the continuity of party systems;
codes for political parties: names, changes of names, splits, and mergers of political parties are indicated with the codes used in the files;
levels of aggregation: informs users about the available levels of aggregation of the data and the continuity of the constituencies over time;
codes for constituencies: gives for each file the list of constituencies and the codes used in the result files as well as the possibilities of aggregating the data at higher levels;
list of sources (official and secondary).

2. File documentation

General rules for data organization

The following describes the general principles for data organization. These rules are general and apply to all files and countries. They concern:
Missing values and national totals. Throughout the files three types of missing values are distinguished:

Information not available: contested elections have taken place, but the results have not been reported;
Category not applicable: categories are included for technical reasons (mixed and horizontal file structures) only. Examples are births and deaths of constituencies, partial elections (constituencies are included in the file for technical reasons, although no elections have taken place), and regionally limited presence of parties;
Uncontested constituencies: this means that only one candidate is present in a constituency and the winner is declared without an election. A special code indicates such constituencies (see table below for the codes in the different programs).

Figures of total valid votes are in most cases based on the original sources. When these figures were not given by available sources, the total number of valid votes has been computed on the basis of party votes. If among party votes some are missing, the total number of valid votes includes only known information. The percentage of the parties' strength for which information is known is, in these cases, overestimated.

Constituency codes and time series

Elections are grouped into files covering a period of time which varies according to the main changes of constituencies. For example, in Belgium elections are subdivided into three files (for 1847–98 with 41 constituencies; for 1900–91 with 30 constituencies, and for 1995 with 20 constituencies). The codes given to the constituencies and other territorial units are specific to the files. Constituencies with the same name can therefore have different codes in the different periods (files). Users must therefore attentively consult the documentation of constituencies and levels of aggregation before building time series.

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Data on CD-ROM