Electoral Institutions and Opinion Representation

05.03.2014 - 17:00
A 5,6 Raum A 231
Art der Veranstaltung: 
AB B-Kolloquium
Prof. Christopher Wlezien
Zugehörigkeit des Vortragenden: 
University of Texas at Austin

Electoral systems are critical to the political representation of public opinion.  Most existing work, most notably Powell (2000), has focused on the importance of proportionality; more specifically, on the differences between proportional and majoritarian systems.  He and others have found that proportional representation produces greater congruence between the positions of the government and the public — that the general ideological disposition of the government that emerges after an election and the ideological bent of the electorate tend to match up better in proportional systems.  The focus in this work has been on the immediate aftermath of elections, however — the existing literature on electoral systems has largely ignored the fact that representation occurs (or not) in the years between elections as well.  This paper accordingly argues for a shift in focus: we want to explore the impact of electoral systems on representation throughout the electoral cycle, that is, during the tenure of governments.  This shift in focus, capturing the period during governments actually govern, leads to quite different expectations.  In contrast with what Powell predicts after elections, our conjecture is that policymakers in majoritarian systems are more responsive to public opinion shocks between elections.  We posit that these policymakers have both greater opportunity and willingness to respond.  In this paper, we first outline Powell’s theory of the “indirect” representation of public opinion in electoral systems, and introduce our theory of “direct” representation.  We then spell out the empirical implications of these theories, and offer some exploratory analyses of the role of electoral systems, alongside party polarization, in producing both indirect and direct representation, not just following elections but throughout the electoral cycle.