Pippa Norris, Electoral Engineering: Voting rules and political behavior (2004).

Main Argument: This volume sets out to provide a systematic comparative evaluation of the impact of electoral institutions and the forces of cultural modernization on electoral behaviour and political representation. The study seeks to test two competing explanations of electoral behaviour and electoral outcomes. The first is a rational choice institutionalist framework that sees voting and electoral outcomes as being structured by the incentives built into various aspects of electoral system design and voting procedures. The alternative explanatory framework tested is a socio-cultural approach that views electoral behaviour and results as the product of socio-cultural forces, including modernization at the level of society and socialization at the individual level. Finds that while both electoral institutions and cultural modernization play important roles in structuring electoral behaviour and political representation, institutional design features have more consistent, and in many cases stronger, relations with the aspects of behaviour and outcomes.


Method: Draws on surveys commissioned by the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems in thirty-two countries conducted within a year after thirty-seven national elections. Additional data sources include the World Values Survey, Inter-Parliamentary Union and International IDEA data.


Independent Variables: Electoral institutions and sociocultural endowment



== Notes ==



– Looks at the causal influence of electoral institutions conceptualized within a rational choice framework, and of various sociological and cultural conditions on political behavior and public opinion about democracy

– Focusing on the lower house of parliament in thirty-two nations, Norris finds that formal rules affect both voting behaviour and political representation in accordance with incentive-based theories of political behaviour (Rational Choice)


Chapter 1:

– Confirms the “mechanical” part of Maurice Duverger’s law and Duverger’s hypothesis that the effective number of parliamentary parties is lowest in majoritarian electoral systems


Chapter 2:

– Estimates the extent to which political party choices, arranged on a unidimensional left-right scale, can be accounted for by various socioeconomic and cultural indicators in each country (the total explained variance of each equation as an indicator of cleavage strength)

– Cleavage strength should be greatest in proportional electoral systems, followed by combined systems, and trailed by majoritarian systems

– Main groups of electoral rules: countries employing majoritarian, proportional, or mixed rules (“combined,” in her terminology), and those with no elections

– In her classification, majoritarian systems include plurality and majority rules, alternative vote, bloc vote, cumulative vote, and the single non-transferable vote

– Proportional rules encompass varied forms of partylist systems and the single transferable vote

– Combined systems are subdivided into independent and dependent systems, depending on the linkage between allocation tiers


Chapter 3: Party ID

– Probes into the extent to which societal conditions (industrial or postindustrial society) or electoral systems affect the differential strength of partisan identification, net of socioeconomic background, and partisan ideology, across her sample of countries


Chapter 4: Voter Turnout

– Finds confirmation of both rational-institutional and cultural determinants of citizens’ conduct

– Norris finds overall support for Duverger’s propositions; majoritarian rules tend to exert a reductive effect on the number of parties in competition


Chapter 5: Proportion Of Women In Parliament

– Uses multivariate analysis of 171 countries

– Finds overwhelming support for the electoral system hypothesis, as opposed to a human development index and a series of dummies for the prevalent religion in a country [186]

– The effect of electoral systems on women’s representation is found to be more pronounced in developed than in developing states [188]

– Electoral system effect is just about entirely confined to protestant countries [207]

– She finds that election rules affect the strategies parties pursue; societies with majoritarian rules tend to exhibit weaker cleavage structures

– Further, cleavages are stronger in the most modernized societies, contradicting expectations from the cultural modernization approach


Chapter 6:

– Looks at implications of Arend Lijphart’s theory of consociationahsm and postulates that in Lijphart’s framework, ethnocultural minorities should signal greater support for democracy, measured by a variety of indicators (perception of electoral fairness, democratic satisfaction, political efficacy, and voter turnout) under proportional than majoritarian electoral rules

– Norris fails to find conclusive evidence for Lijphart’s claim that proportional electoral systems, or “consociational” democracies, increase political support among ethnic minorities


Chapter 7: Electoral Ballots

– Robust findings that a personal linkage between electoral constituencies and candidates for or members of legislatures depends on, among other things, the electoral ballot structure

– Her multivariate analysis reveals, however, that this net effect is substantively marginal [242]

– Norris finds that election rules influence turnout, with voters coming to the polls more readily when proportional rules are employed

– But factors important in cultural modernization theory, such as social features and cultural attitudes, also influence the likelihood of voting


– In the third part of the study, the focus is turned to the composition of elected bodies, examining electoral outcomes in terms of women’s representation (Chapter Eight), the representation of ethnic minorities (Chapter Nine) and constituency service (Chapter Ten)




– The expectations of the cultural modernization thesis were not always borne out; for example, levels of party attachment were found to be higher in post-industrial than in industrial societies [257], though cultural modernization suggests that the opposite ought to be true, as post-industrial forces ought to lead to partisan de-alignment

– Norris provides strong empirical support for the notion that political parties, as well as voters, adopt self-maximizing strategies, engaging in what Norris describes as “cleavage politics” [98]

– Given a majoritarian system, parties have an incentive to adopt “bridging” strategies because of weak social cleavages, whereas parties operating in electoral systems with proportional rules tend to adopt “bonding” strategies to appeal to particular social groups [124]

– Although rational-choice institutionalism tends to serve as a primary predictor of political behaviour among voters and political parties throughout the text, Norris finds that theories of cultural modernization supplement incentive-based theories in explaining the behaviour of elected officials and individual voters

– Furthermore, although electoral rules concerning compulsory voting laws, ballot structure, and registration processes have a significant effect on voter turnout, indicators relating to cultural attitudes and human capital also affect political participation beyond the existing institutional context

– Accountability: the effect of presidentialism appears to interact with the quality of democracy, such that when presidentialism is good, it can be very good, although when it is bad, it’s worse

– Among regimes with high Freedom House scores, presidentialism reduces corruption and rent-seeking policies, whereas among lower-quality democracies, presidentialism contributes to policies that undermine property rights and reduce the productivity of labour

– Parliamentary regimes with proportional electoral rules respond most dramatically to negative economic shocks by increasing government spending, but then do not subsequently scale back when times get better

– Governments in proportional electoral systems, parliamentary and presidential alike, by contrast, raise spending in election years



Critique: Should look at interaction effects : It may well be that rational choice institutionalism comes

to have a stronger effect on electoral outcomes in more socially developed societies, and as such the two sets of forces interact


Critique: Gender quotas are discussed at length in the chapter on women’s representation, yet the topic of ethnic quotas is given only a brief mention