The Quality of Democracy

The Macropolity by Robert S. Erikson; Michael Mackuen; James Stimson; Elections as
Instruments of Democracy: Majoritarian and Proportional Visions by G. Bingham Powell;
Democracy, Accountability, and Representation by Adam Przeworski; Susan Stokes; Bernard
Manin; Mandates and Democracy: Neoliberalism by Surprise in Latin America by Susan
Stokes; Public Support for Market Reforms in New Democracies by Susan Stokes
Review by: Andrew Roberts
Comparative Politics, Vol. 37, No. 3 (Apr., 2005), pp. 357-376
Published by: Ph.D. Program in Political Science of the City University of New York
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Review

The Quality

of Democracy
Andrew

Robert

S. Erikson, Michael

York, Cambridge University
G. Bingham
Proportional

and James Stimson,
Mackuen,
2002.
Press,

Article

Roberts

New

The Macropolity,

Powell, Jr., Elections as Instruments of Democracy:
Visions, New Haven, Yale University Press, 2000.

Majoritarian

and

and Bernard Manin,
Susan Stokes,
eds., Democracy,
Przeworski,
and
New
York, Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Representation,
Accountability,

Adam

and Democracy:
Neoliberalism
Stokes, Mandates
New
America,
York, Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Susan

Susan Stokes, ed., Public Support for Market
York, Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Reforms

by Surprise

inNew Democracies,

in Latin

New

For the past two decades the main topic of research in comparative politics has been
democratization.
The question troubling scholars has been why some countries
or waver
become and stay democratic, while others either do not democratize
between democracy and authoritarianism. This research program has been both pro
lific and successful. Today, a considerable amount is known about why democracies
are distributed around the world the way they are.1
the third wave has largely ended, and there appear to be few new
Nevertheless,
cases of democratization

or authoritarian relapse to explain. Existing cases, more
have
been
over,
analyzed in depth both through careful case studies and aggregate
statistical analyses. While more could be done, scholarly attention might yield
greater gains by focusing on aspects of democratization besides the transition to and
the persistence of democracy.
One interesting place to look is in recent work that argues that many of these new
democracies do not function as expected. Guillermo O'Donnell, for example, has noted
that many Latin American democracies
should be termed delegative democracies
because presidents, while elected democratically, rule without reference to public opin

357

responsiveness. concerns the nature and strength of these links.Comparative Politics April 2005 ion or institutional checks. accountable. The five books under review all focus on democratic quality in this sense. they allow citizens of the quality of democracy is intimately related to these three processes. They look at the linkages described above. and trade-offs often have to be made between them. This problem turns as well as theoretically. the central concern of democratic quality is the connec tions between citizens and their elected representatives. they Elections connect citizens and policymakers allow citizens to select the rulers and policy directions they prefer.4 These linkages stem directly from the key institution of democracy: free and fair elections. The field expands even further if quality is interpreted in both its positive and normative senses. The third is a theory out to be quite tricky methodologically 358 . and representative governments? This area of research might be called the quality of democracy. Second.2 For similar reasons. However. They examine the degree to which politicians respond to public opinion. The study Finally. In these cases democracy is not fulfilling its potential. politicians may gov ern without reference to public opinion. From this perspective. In practice. later as and accountability. Each book focuses on three issues central in understanding the quality of democracy. the phrase should mainly be used to study issues inherent in the democratic process. The quality of a democracy defined mandates. The first is the proper normative standard for judging citizen elite linkages. the three standards suggested above are not always mutu ally compatible. in three powerful ways. and are held account able for their actions.3 How well do democracies work? How well do they produce responsive. Schmitter and Karl have proposed a def inition of democracy that looks at the presence of accountability rather than elections. The study of democratic quality ismotivated by the failure of free and fair elec tions sometimes to foster these three links. First. follow through on their promises. It is the next logical step from analysis of democratization. to respond to public preferences these rulers strong incentives to recall rulers they judge to be unsuccessful. they give as they govern. It also offers a relatively underdeveloped research program with much room for innovative work. The Field of Democratic Quality Research on democratic quality potentially includes virtually any aspect of politics in democratic countries. rather than those common to all political systems. and unsuccessful politicians may escape electoral punishment. The second is the best way to measure how well these standards are achieved. Citizens may be unable to make good choices (whether from a lack of good options or information). Democracy distinguishes links between the prefer itself from other forms of government by institutionalizing ences of citizens and the actions of politicians.

and accountability have all been the subject of empirical investigation in the past. Partially for this reason they have also not probed deeply into the causes of quality but have rather tried to show only the existence (or nonexistence) of a certain type of quality. has received the lion's share of the attention in studies of democ Responsiveness ratic quality. They are illustrated in Figure 1.Andrew Roberts quality. choices reflect public opinion."6 The authors additionally define a gov ernment as representative if it acts in the best interest of citizens where best interest can be demarcated in different ways. Do the linkages inherent in democratic quality is actually improve human welfare? Ultimately. until recently democratic regimes were in theminority. democracy own as as Do its for sake for much its consequences. strong linkages make important citizens better off? Eventually itwill be necessary to address the Burkean argument that politicians often need to be delinked from the public. Stokes. for thinking Przeworski. but one of the largest questions of all remains open. That is. and Manin helpfully lay out a set of definitions is responsive "if it adopts about mass-elite linkages. mandates. In their terms. they have yet to receive attention as part of a larger. They have also been relatively neglected in the field of comparative politics. A large part of democracy's normative appeal is that it will produce is a governments that follow the will of the people (though whether responsiveness has the of become Political scientists. connected research program. Moreover. but the global expansion of democracy has brought them to the forefront. These definitions will be followed in the remainder of the article. a government is the mandate if "citizens can discern representative from unrepresentative accountable govern ments and can sanction them appropriately." where signals include public policies if it follows opinion polls and political action. stronger linkages?than ty politics?that While these issues have often been investigated. about what causes democratic The books reviewed here open important paths in the study of democratic quality. Previous Work In an introductory and Representation. essay to Democracy. Finally. studies have focused mainly on theUnited States and a handful of advanced democracies. a government that are signaled as preferred by citizens. Of course. Accountability. Why do some democracies have higher quali others? is.5 A government ismandate-responsive through on the promises itmakes in campaigns. they have not been combined into a single research program but rather have proceeded in fits and starts. 359 . good thing debate). However.7 subject recently mainly have devoted considerable resources to determining whether policy Americanists. the government responds to it has been given in winning the election. This question will come to the forefront in the next generation of studies. Responsiveness.

particularly Kelley's Interpreting Elections. indicating considerable responsiveness.12 Indeed.8 Their main finding was a high correlation (with variations across issue areas) between the two. Perhaps congressmen were influ encing their districts rather than the other way around. which examines In short. As that Page noted. these studies. cast The classic works in this genre.14 The advantage of this formulation is . Accountability and Representation^ The classic work on this issue isMiller and Stokes' "Constituency Influence in the relation in 116 between congres Congress.11 Erikson. Critics..10 and Stimson's book attempts to rein problems. and seem to suffer from potentially fatal ability to find the cause of responsiveness) changes. most early work Studies of mandate responsiveness effort was spent tracking down the elu focused on the United States. doubt on whether such mandates can be studied scientifically.Comparative Figure Politics 1 Citizen-Elite April 2005 Linkages Responsiveness Mandate Responsiveness Preferences -> Signals -> Mandates -> Policies -> Outcomes Accountability from Przeworski Source: Reproduced p. howev er. including his own. Page and Shapiro tried to solve some of these problems by using time-series analysis. it is remark ably difficult to interpret what voters want in any given election.9 They looked at whether shifts in public opinion were followed by appropri ate changes in policy and found such correlation in roughly two-thirds of cases. 9. et al. did not eliminate the possibility earlier changes in policy had affected public opinion or that other variables?for or world events?might the media be responsible for these policy example. raised doubts about the direction of causality. most of the studies in this tradition have found a high degree of but they are mainly confined to the United States (limiting their responsiveness. methodological this research tradition. but on what 360 politicians campaign for in elections. vigorate are more diverse. Mackuen. Considerable sive presidential mandate?whether presidents were given a mandate from voters. Again. Democracy." public preferences sional districts and the roll-call votes and issue preferences of the congressmen rep resenting them.13 One solution to this difficulty is to focus not on what voters are voting for.

and Stimson investigate not only whether public opinion influences elections and policy outcomes. and there is a wide consensus that economic con ditions are among the most important determinants of voting behavior.15 They have combined assessments of these manifestos with follow in public spending to determine whether governments data on changes cases most on in is that The commitments. has focused on the United States or advanced industrial democracies. Though The Macropolity account of its of democratic quality.Andrew Roberts that it is possible to measure more precisely the actions of politicians than the inten tions of voters. This focus severely limits its ability to determine the causes of quality. In short. their finding through proclaimed policy governments do follow extends Democracy endemic problem through this research on their mandates. Using comprehensiveness it is noteworthy for the an enormous amount of empirical data and high-powered statistical techniques.16 tradition Stokes' Mandates to Latin America and and the supposedly there of politicians' ignoring their campaign promises. The Comparative Manifestos Project has had this goal. Indeed.18 Powell's and the of accountability books add to knowledge by respectively measuring retro in and of advanced democracies whether investigating degree accountability spective economic voting prevails during market reforms in developing countries. The authors set their argument against the widely held belief that voters are ill informed about politics.19 Because of the work's scope.moreover. though their results are not as consistent. it can provide a set of standards against which to judge other democracies. Mackuen. this conclusion is one of the main results of public and opinion research since the 1950s.17 A smaller number of studies looks at cross-national variation in the relation between econom ics and election results. however. Most of this work has analyzed individual level data. In comparative politics. If true. Much of it. then the idea of responsiveness 361 . where such research is presumably most important because of the flaws of many thirdwave democ racies. but also whether policies influence public opinion. The dominant vein of research looks at the effects of economic conditions on elections as a gauge of the extent to which voters punish politicians for negative outcomes. Erikson. Stokes' Research. The organiz for ten advanced ers of this project have put together a database of party manifestos industrial democracies. The American Baseline focuses only on American politics. has not proceeded under a unified banner. voters notice what politicians do and sanction Accountability?whether them? has attracted attention because it iswidely believed that citizens lack the sophistica tion to make the responsiveness or mandate conceptions work. there has been a good deal of interest in issues of democratic quality. it has taken a back seat to research on the causes of democracy.

and Stimson investigate how govern ment performance affects public opinion and voting. whether policy responds to public opinion. Moreover. Presidential approval and election results. parties. and Stimson accept this argument at the individ ual level but argue that at the collective level public opinion is real and surprisingly to them. In the authors' terms. comes for each of the four major institutions of U. It does so not because all citizens are well-informed. Their next step is to find a way of measuring policy. policy mood. the collective public manifests not just rational well-informed.20 According of rational expecta ity in its ordinary sense. they find that a single latent dimension explains thirty-eight percent of the in responses. To what can politicians respond if citizens do not give them clear signals about what they want? How can they be held accountable if voters do not know what they have done? Interestingly. the uninformed cancel each other out. One has to do with the supposed instability of public preferences. appear to be most strongly a function of the economy. Mackuen. and the Supreme Court. They find that governments can not hide from the public. they also create a measure of important laws. and Stimson find a number of ways of defining policy out Erikson.S. at policy activity. constantly thinking about the future. This national policy mood moves systematically variance variety of specific policy areas. the authors focus on the issue of responsiveness.Comparative Politics April 2005 accountability have to be discarded. Using all nationwide opinion surveys over the past fifty years. This dimension. but because they have an influence on policy. captures citizens' beliefs over the proper scope of government: whether government should be expanded or con over time across a wide tracted.21 That is. In the first half of the book. Mackuen. In the second half of the book. fixated on the past. thus contradicting expectations of instability. it not only uses all available information about the past. citizens are more like bankers. The difficulties with this sort of research are legion. and voting are important not for their own sake. the sum total of all the actions taken by these branches. Mackuen. government: the House of the Senate. the Presidency. They look first Representatives. But because policy activity deals mainly with minor matters. institutions. Indeed. for example. Here 362 they borrow Mayhew's dataset of important legislation and . but also the stronger characteristic tions. public opinion. the problem of mea surement has hindered research on what many would agree is the most important dependent variable in political science. than like peasants. but also looks well into the future. To a large extent. In essence. citizens rely less on retrospective evaluations of the economy than on forward-looking predictions that are remarkably accurate. Erikson. The authors claim to have solved this problem by looking at time-series data across a variety of different issues. Yet the literature on policymaking is surprisingly weak largely because of the difficulty of dealing with this dependent variable. the issue of accountability. Erikson. but because a small number of informed citizens is enough to determine aggregate trends.

which do not follow the national mood. Just as significant is the bottom line of policy outcomes. They and policy changes. rel ered only one case. is driven by anticipation. They argue that recent American history supports the strong version of democracy. and a strong version. despite the enormous amount of data utilized. where watchful and attentive citizens force politicians to stay responsive at every moment. these findings are not the last word. the actions of elites. Control variables. the authors further break down respon into two pathways: anticipation (policy changes because representatives turnover and their (policy changes because out-of-touch represen positions) change in the House. Policy adjusts extremely rapidly to shifts in remarkably responsive an almost one-to-one relation between opinion changes find public opinion. They provide systemic elections influence policy. Responsiveness in the Senate. like actual events in the world. interest groups. Mackuen. More tellingly. While policy may move does not always mean that in the same direction as public opinion. and most of this change occurs within a year or two. They liken macro public opinion to a thermostat for government policy.S. is driven by turnover. (or representation ly imply responsiveness a take and Stimson However. but also how policy feeds back on elections and public opinion. Erikson. the problem is that the authors have consid is in the U. and crime.Andrew Roberts of policy innovation that is the difference between the number of laws passed in a given year. In the end. This movement to policy. then policy might reflect the work of ideologues shaping public dialogue. Page While powerful and comprehensive. though they respond at somewhat create a measure speeds. Of course. this movement does what the public wants. Responsiveness even for in substance thatmatter). the public mood moves the government is important because. where elections are always tatives are replaced). that might explain some of the variation in policy are omitted. When policy is too liberal (conservative).23 The aggregation involved in building up measures of public opinion and policy lim its the analysis to a simple left-right dimension purged of issues like foreign policy. ifmood did not react in the opposite direction. the public demands more conservative (liberal) policies. large step forward in trying to a not account show of only how public opinion and politics. much is still left out. Many policies that enjoy widespread example. different siveness points out that. where inattentive citizens keep government responsive through occasional replacement of politicians. For the House and Senate. They find that when policy moves in one direction. This rela tion applies to all four branches of government. It is not known either how high responsiveness 363 . around the corner. the authors compare a weak version of democracy. expanded health insurance?get caught in the veto-prone support?for over time does not necessari American of the gears political system. and the government responds to these demands. abortion. and politicians them selves who might influence both public opinion and policy are not captured.22 They conclude that policy is liberal and conservative to policy mood. while responsiveness where elections are more competitive.

S. by contrast. The U. Powell is more focused on the representation of citizens' opinions.25 Indeed. however. and federalism. is helped by electoral laws ensuring pro portional representation. believes that elections represent all opinions and that government institutions should be designed to give all views a say in policy. may ative to other countries or what the causes of responsiveness as a baseline. by contrast. The proportional vision thus should not calls authorized opinions close allows for this representation because it isworried thatminority opinions will be ignored. Most countries can be classified as one type or the other. The major portion of Powell's work consists of testing whether twenty advanced democracies actually fulfill their self-professed goals.Comparative Politics April 2005 are. by contrast. Advanced serve Democracies InElections as Instruments of Democracy.26 The pro portional vision. The proportional vision. Rather. does not aim for either of these goals and be judged by whether it achieves them. The difference between them. The majoritarian vision believes that themajority should rule directly by identifying and vot ing for a definite government and holding that government accountable at the next elec tion.S. Powell takes amajor step toward comparing the quality of advanced democracies. and Italy. the two agree that the size of the governing majority is a clear distinction between the two types of democracy. But while Lijphart looks mainly at institutions and theway power is exercised within government. The majoritarian vision aims for amandate?voters to identify and select a future government?and should be able accountability?voters to clearly pronounce judgment on a government and replace it if necessary. Japan. do not fit into either one of these categories and are called mixed systems. including the U. bicameralism. Powell argues that it is problematic to compare these two visions according to a sin should be able gle measuring stick. all institutions that give minorities policy influence..24 This distinction may appear similar to Lijphart's classic differentiation of majoritari an and consensus democracies. These visions are reflected in institutional designs. ismore one of emphasis than of genuine disagreement. He con cludes that there are two visions of democracy which aim toward different goals. Spain. though a few. strong legislative committees. but only once more is known about responsiveness elsewhere. The majoritarian vision is facili tated by plurality electoral systems and institutions that concentrate power in the gov ernment. Itwants voters to be able to choose representatives with to their own who will then act on their behalf. Do majoritarian systems deliver mandates and accountability? Do proportional systems deliver authorized representa tion? The answer is that each system does well judged by its own standards but poorly well by the standards of the other. He finds that comparison is not simple. 364 . The proportional vision. it aims for what Powell representation.

Not only do all parties receiving significant shares of the vote obtain seats in parliament. majoritarian systems put all their chips on election outcomes.28 When there aremore than two parties. but that they will not stray anywhere. Here the proportional vision again outperforms the majoritarian one. In essence. Accountability works better. one might prefer amajoritar ian system despite its flaws because it actually does something. Incumbent parties usually lose votes. In this sense. A party winning forty percent of votes may control all the levers of power. the worry about proportional systems is not that they will stray from the median.30 365 . Proportional systems can compensate for this distortion through power-sharing at the level of government. but itmight be better termed identifiability. One would expect Downsian competition inmajoritarian systems to push parties toward the center and reward the more centrist party. there is what Powell calls a mandate. and winning parties may be far from the center. but the opposite occurs just as frequently. Even more dis turbing are the approximately twenty percent of cases where the second place party wins the majority of seats.Andrew Roberts Powell first looks at election results. but what really mat ters is how ideology is translated into policy. While majoritarian governments may rep resent only aminority of voters and be far from themedian voter. All parties chosen by voters thus have a say in policymaking. This conclusion is surprising. While persuasive. These systems give voters identifiable choices of future governments and usually give the chosen government the power to enact its policies over a relatively powerless opposition. whether in the government or out of it. but only a plurality. and thus actual preferences should be considered as well. Majoritarian systems fail on this score by not weeding out third parties. these results leave out the final step in the causal chain. but majoritarian systems can not. competition is no longer centripetal. the average ideology of the parties in the parliament weighted by their influence) is to themedian voter. This approach measures responsive ness if it is assumed that the policy outputs of a government reflect its ideology. The problem is that thewinning party usually does not win amajority of votes. and governments are decisively replaced when they fail. His aim is to determine how close the government (that is. His reasoning is that elections artificially limit the number of options that voters have to choose from. while proportional sys tems allow postelection bargaining to take some of the pressure off of elections. There is no question that the ideological color of governments is important. He uses both public opinion polls and expert placements of party ideology. As expected. they will produce far less significant legislation because they are hamstrung by too many parties and too much opposition influence.27 Powell repeats this analysis with voter preferences rather than election results. That is. the proportional vision represents most groups proportionally. The pivotal vote in proportional systems is closer to themedian. do they produce poli cy at variance with voters' desires? Moreover. but everyone gets a say in policymaking either by par ticipating in large coalitions or through strong parliamentary committees.29 Indeed. The majoritarian system is slightly more problematic.

is a trade-off between types of quality. In short. from welfare promises efficiency policies. same to switchers all switched in the direction. There has yet done. pub presidents lic opinion. She investigates this question through both statistical analysis of forty-four inArgentina.32 Most campaigns fit of market reforms. Her research questions are why politicians sometimes go back on their promises and what effect this action has on their soci eties. Mackuen. The nature of politics in Latin America allows Stokes to sidestep many of the dif ficulties of research on mandates. in one or the other category. that is. But it is not clear whether they affect how well a system is governed.Comparative Politics April 2005 In short. ignoring campaign promises. what she calls mandate violations. they perform poorly by the standards of proportional and authorized representation are pre systems. The problem is to create a measure of policy choices that is comparable across countries. in Latin America? and Stimson and Powell find a substantial degree of Erikson. Quality Failures will have to be sacrificed. On quality. She then looks to see whether the elected candidate through on his pledge. she finds that in twelve cases (27 percent) of these the candidate promised one thing. and legislatures. and Perez in Venezuela. in there is much more doubt about whether advanced democracies. The high per in Latin America is as bad as O'Donnell gest that democracy well followed centage of switches on the key issue of the campaign and the rapidness of the switches seem to suggest that politicians cared little about voters and instead pur sued their own personal interests. Yet this explanation is riot the only one and is not 366 . Politics in these countries in the years she ana to 1995?centered mainly on the issue of market reforms. and all did so within days or weeks of taking office. has argued that function equally well. of democracy: the tendency of presidents to ignore the platform they were elected on. If proportionality well ferred. InMandates Stokes analyzes one aspect of this supposed failure and Democracy. While majoritarian systems perform fairly by their own standards. From a dataset of forty-four elections. against them. or welfare-oriented. in favor thus able to classify election campaigns as either efficiency-oriented. and vice versa. responsiveness newer democracies for example. but delivered another. some accountability and identifiability not all good things go together.31 Nevertheless. Interestingly. Fujimori in elections and case studies of mandate violations by Menem Peru. O'Donnell. Powell shows that elections and institutions affect who governs. the data sug finds. as in Latin America govern they wish. something no one a powerful message emerges from Powell's work. Stokes is lyzes?1982 that is. He believes this situation is partially a result of the While uncongenial economic environment these countries have faced.

welfare-oriented policies will be economically disastrous. they do not give up hope of staying in power. switching personal However. moreover. Their hope rests in voters' uncertainty about their beliefs. the motivations were rent-seekers. they decide that they should not follow through on their campaign promises.Andrew Roberts the one for which Stokes finds evidence. to outcomes than their judgments Fortunately for politicians. distrust politicians and the political right in Latin America. switch. Similarly. In fact. all is not dates are not credible. not and do receive obvious benefits. switching usually yields good economic growth. to have second-order effects as citizens begin to process. She also finds evidence that voters are genuinely uncertain about the effects of economic policies. If the platforms of candi have little basis for choosing between parties. Presidents do not appear to enrich themselves. they appear to have genuinely believed that following through on their campaign promises would be disastrous for the country. campaigns. seen in higher growth rates. Her argument begins with the observation that politicians must support welfare oriented policies in order to win elections. office-seeking politicians will thus run welfare-oriented But some politicians believe that voters are mistaken. They understand that. though they ought to if politicians were only out to enrich themselves. then voters these switches are likely Moreover. gain they merely additional campaign contributions. While a case can be made for the man 367 . or soon after they take office. Voters lies and them. she argues that inmost cases presi act in the best interests of the dents switched out of a desire both to represent?to citizens?and to win reelection. Politicians dissemble only when they have no other choice. Politicians thus pay a cost for recognize punish being equal. Instead. To prove this point. More to the point. They in which case they bait and may come to this realization during their campaigns. competitive elections make switches more likely. Their ex post judgments on politicians who switch are much more sensitive on nonswitchers. were all other things electorally at the next election relative to nonswitchers. This decision does not mean that they sacrifice themselves for the good of the country. Politicians thus haz ard that the superiority of their choices. or shirk their responsibilities by switching. countries with term limits do not produce more switchers. of politicians do not support an interpretation that Furthermore. but they can be persuaded to change their minds if it brings good results. even if Stokes' argument that mandate violations occur in the name of punished representation is accepted. For example. even if voters prefer them. Stokes shows that the patterns of switching are not consistent with an interpretation of politicians as rent-seekers who switch to line their own pockets. Switchers. Citizens may oppose neoliberalism. will make it clear to voters that switching was the correct decision. No matter their real beliefs. There is simply not enough mass support in the region as evidenced by the small number of parties that have for neoliberalism won elections with an efficiency-oriented campaign. In either case.

voters additionally punish politicians for breaking their promises. economy. But while the some Latin American countries from western Europe. judging by the suc opposition cess that switchers have had in getting reelected in Latin America. to elect efficiency-oriented In contrast. There is a remark able disconnection between the economic realities as seen by politicians and voters. Dominguez ante. ceteris paribus. It is hard Europe or Asia. there may be European some potential Economic to create mass Reform support for free markets. and Democratic Quality is not the end of democratic quality. politi cians need tomake a greater effort to explain what is happening and why they violat to do so. of parties distinguishes youth not it does distinguish them from other new democracies. have been unwilling have had the advantage of being able to link reforms with politicians to Communism and a return to Europe. the case for continued violations is far weaker.36 Less commonly remarked on is how it relates to the quality of is wanted. as long may politicians they as democracy survives. may not be entirely at fault here. political business democracy. The difference has some thing to do with the character of mass publics in Latin America. argues that. If voters can not select The failure of mandates ex still catch them ex post. in eastern Europe voters were willing one are roots The of this disconnection of the parties. from this problem. The idea that voters reward or economic performance punish incumbents based on their economic performance has become a standard in political science. Eastern To date politicians ed their mandates. Stokes provides some evidence for in that the consequences of efficiency-oriented this conclusion policies matter for election outcomes and mandate violators are punished at the polls relative to nonvio lators. Voters. accountability can substitute for mandates.33 key issues in explaining eco nomic reform.34 However. politicians would have a strong incentive to keep their promises. then ret It is easy to see that. of course. Stokes finds violations than older ones?a in particular has suffered then.Comparative Politics date violations April 2005 that have occurred in Latin America.35 Voters can keep In fact. if good economic performance a to incentive take care of the economic strong voting gives politicians rospective are as of wrinkles studies the Of there course. here. The important question. is whether The standard of accountability that is usually applied in democracies affects election outcomes. is why Latin America to think of similar cases in new democracies in eastern that young political parties are more likely to commit strong party system ensures consistency. but answers are so far thin. if politicians on a leash by sanctioning incumbents for poor performance. As Stokes points out. 368 .

The remainder of the book uses public opinion data from six states?Spain. She calls this stance exonerating. incumbents have often managed both to undertake painful reforms and to get themselves reelected. In a clever introduction to Public Support for Market Reform. faced with economic decline as a result of spective unconstrained neoliberal reforms. usually has the expected effect of increasing opposition are more to reactions inflation and stagnant growth diverse. because might be pessimistic believe the government is not responsible for the decline but is simply cleaning they mess the left up by the previous regime. However.38 Major reforms make things worse before they make them better.Andrew Roberts cycle make clear. hurt unfairly or because they are committed to the opposition. East see which of these stances best Poland. against a variety of measures of economic performance. and Stimson argue. and it iswhat market reformers hope for. however. but if voters have rational expectations. where retrospective economic voting might lead to poor outcomes. The reason is what has come to be called the J-curve. This stance is called distributional or oppositionist. Peru. describes ment to the government. 369 . She hypothesizes that rational voters can take other positions than retro For economic voting. Mackuen. Bad conditions will then be greeted with both opti mism and support for the government. There are two other ways that voters might respond to economic decline. There is also evidence that some citizens exonerate the government. example. Stokes terms this intertemporal voting. It isworth in many of these countries encouraged citizens to take such noting that politicians that there would be no gain without pain or postures through public pronouncements that the economic decline was the previous regime's fault. economic voting is probably a good thing. voters might instead look to the future and believe that current pain means future prosperity. Stokes lays out a framework for analyzing public support for market reforms. The intertemporal economic news producing optimism and support?is response?negative fairly com mon. the authors regress two dependent variables. because they know things will be better in the vote against the incumbent either because they see their own group as but future. support for the incumbent and optimism about the economy. Mexico. While rising unemploy Germany. economic voting may be counterproductive. In developing countries in need of drastic reforms. Forward-looking politi cians will thus avoid reforms for fear of electoral retribution. And vot ers might greet decline with optimism. They about the economy but still support the incumbent.39 If citizens vote according to the state of the economy.37 There is one place. then incumbents who try to represent and undertake necessary but painful reforms will be punished. In each case. as Erikson. The results show that citi zens adopt a variety of postures toward economic decline. This logic has ledmany to economic to the conclusion is not conducive that democracy reform and that executives will produce better economic results. and Argentina?to the public response tomarket reform.

study of the normative issues of democratic quality is still at a fairly rudi mentary stage. Normative of Standards Many people favor democracy because it creates incentives for politicians to represent the best interest of the public. concerning mandates democracy follow through on their promises. deal with these Several chapters of Democracy. Citizens do not have to be duped or ignored to pass reforms.Comparative Politics April 2005 Stokes proposes a number of hypotheses to explain where retrospective economic voting can be expected and where not. There are technical matters the public is not well-informed. the evidence shows a considerable degree sophistication in voters who are experiencing democracy for the first time. numerous about which 370 . voters have clear politicians increases. and where party identification is weak. if deliberation among legis lators helps to produce better policy. But there are situations where responsiveness breaks down. In fact. contradictory. or evenly divided. Future research may be able to test some of these inter esting hypotheses and thus contribute to explanations of when reforms are sustainable. where the opposition is not clearly associated with the old regime. Should politicians fulfill their mandates? Should they respond to public opinion? For what should voters hold them accountable? If these standards conflict.41 Indeed. Its value can best be seen by considering its The same is true for responsiveness. As Stokes notes. for these reasons no country has an imperative mandate. information on election day about what to expect. Yet much research needs to be done to explain how differ ent democracies succeed in this task and why some are more successful than others. which should be preferred? It is noteworthy that both Powell and Stokes spend consider able time considering the suitability of their normative standards. Moreover. There are situations where public opinion is unclear. among other conditions. It thus provides some measure of hope that market reforms can be undertaken without sacrificing too much in democratic quality.40 For example. and it is no longer in the public's best interest that politicians follow through on their promises? Similarly. Any situation where governments a implies breakdown of responsiveness. but the nonrandomly chosen data set of six coun tries does not allow her to test these hypotheses. Public opinion may be unstable when stabil are better informed than citizens ity is needed. about the volume is its challenge to the recommendation of concen Noteworthy trated executive power during economic reforms. then the desirability of mandates might need to be reconsidered. converse: a government that does the opposite of what the public wants. Accountability. It thus chal can not see that voters in new democracies lenges the widespread assumption beyond their next paycheck. Representation seems to function well if issues. and trust in politicians But what if conditions change. She reasonably suggests that economic voting will be more common where the ruling party is clearly in control.

in another contribution to this book. Indeed. There is a widespread dis like of office seeking behavior even though accountability functions best when politicians want to be reelected. If Moreover. It is hard to think of a worthy successor to Hanna Pitkin's classic. has its Even accountability. it is not possible to achieve all these standards at the same time. have they will have to sacrifice some respon politicians siveness. Citing the impossibility theorems of social choice theory.Andrew Roberts the least problematic of the standards. On the other hand. itmay not induce them to put forward their best effort. governments that perform well but for reasons outside their control did not achieve the desired outcomes may not be reelected. two problems follow. these areas seem to be tailor-made for productive dis empirical political scientists and political theorists. In fact. as they require voters to send two separate and distinct messages with a single vote: an evaluation of the incumbent's performance and a choice among future policy direc tions. This line of reasoning is not watertight.42 Indeed.^ Conclusions As democracy and Avenues expands. If voters choose a specific standard to judge the government. governments that put forth less than their best effort but for fortuitous reasons achieve good outcomes may be reelected. argues that much of the rhetoric about politics indicates that elections are seen more as selecting good politicians than as sanctioning bad ones. two groups that had little to say to each other. seemingly flaws. First. they suggest that much more thinking is needed about the standards to which govern ments should be held. However. While accountability may give politicians an incentive to avoid seri ous failures. These reflections do not exhaust all of the normative issues at play. But it does suggest how little is known about what iswanted from democracy. However. The accountability standard is often proclaimed as the most effective and practi cable one. the two links may also substitute for or reinforce one another. to stick to their mandates. Schmitter and Karl similarly believe that a workable definition of democracy should Riker be founded on accountability. Further. Fearon. The same goes for the premium that is put on princi ples and consistency. for Future Research variation among existing democracies will inevitably 371 . scholars like have argued that anything more than throwing the bums out is infeasible. term limits are popular despite the fact that they make accountability much more difficult. This contradiction is one of the reasons mandates are hard to discern. The Concept of Representation. accountability and mandates may themselves be contradictory. Second. it is unfortunate that political theorists have not devoted much energy to questions of democratic quality in recent cussions between have heretofore years. The accountability conception still has much to recommend it.

44 Laws may be passed. the correspondence Much is hidden under these aggregates. Studies of policymaking some such unifying theme would yield considerable gains. One way of synthesizing studies of privatization. More systematic study of the performance of new democracies (and even old on a of of indicators democratic is The needed. pension reforms. as several of the studies here do. The applicability of these concepts should be kept inmind. for exam responsiveness ple.Comparative Politics April 2005 not automatically function in the same way as old as democracies. mandate responsiveness. and it would be surprising if responsiveness. may be in terms of the extent to which citizens' prefer are so diverse that ences are expressed in policy decisions. The quality of democracy may provide just such a framework. Informal institutions of particularism may be better predictors of behavior than legal norms. and Stimson it is policy liberalism. New democracies will and for citizens of these countries. For Erikson. Stokes. and for between the tenor of campaigns and policy choices. To understand why certain democra and accountability. but democracies they are not applied or enforced. democracies but they are still troubling both for increase. O'Donnell argues that inmany less advanced informal institutions trump formal ones. it is not widely recognized that path 372 . for example. for Powell. five books ones) quality variety under review both revive attention to the subject of democratic quality and provide a set of sophisticated techniques to analyze it. There are several areas where additional democrats work might be done. Does path dependence cate that present preferences are being ignored or that both past and present prefer ences are being taken into account? Indeed. and fiscal policy. to make causal statements it is necessary a at states and therefore do not cap of limited group regions. Social policy. Mackuen. All of these books look ture all of the variation in democratic quality. distance of the government from the median voter. sary to repeat these studies in a wider sample of democracies. The influence of informal institutions before focusing entirely on formal institutions. Governments make policy in a large variety should be considered of areas. and mandate did not differ across different policy areas. Poorly functioning are better than nondemocracies. likely exhibits different dynamics than fiscal or regulatory policy. Variations across policy areas should also be considered. it is neces cies foster responsiveness. accountability. Hard thinking about concepts like path dependence and blame avoidance that are indi prominent in work on policymaking would be required. they may not link their citizens with policymakers well as democratic governments in the advanced industrial states. All of the studies here use aggregate measures of outcomes. Most troubling. Scholars have already done a great deal of research on policymaking within indi vidual policy areas in both developed and developing countries. to extend these studies to new First. These studies need to be placed in a larger framework.

several of the books under review suggest that institutions play an impor tant role in the quality of democracy. On the one Stokes' evidence presents both disconfirmation seem to be of Latin America citizens hand. Answers to these questions obvious. it is worth noting that this result is driven by only a small number of well-informed citizens. accountability produce good responsiveness. too. the judiciary. Finally. Mackuen. and bureaucracy are all important parts of link the between citizens and policymakers. A capacity to learn may explain some of this contradiction. but citizens select politicians. and sanc 373 . The quality of choices that citizens have in elections. but they are systematically misinformed. that several recent veins of work postulate that nonaccountable institutions produce better outcomes than accountable ones. It is interesting. These books make clear that citizens matter.45 Zakaria likewise worries that institutions in the United States have been made too responsive to the citizenry.49 On the other hand. the extent of their participation. Their reluctance campaigns facing what that do not will be forced to do while in office. Voters seem able to countries understand both the short-term negative effects of reform and its long-term positive consequences. express their policy preferences. Elections and public opinion affect policies. as While rational that characterize information of expectations. informational to it is necessary that and outcomes. they high degree countries might doubt whether ordinary citizens in their scholars of developing could achieve this level of informedness. and confirmation. ic quality? Mandates though responsiveness might be improved. Inwhat sense. but clear ly more work is needed on how well informed citizens are about the behavior of politicians and the problems facing their country. for example. issues are key to democratic quality. her analysis of public opinion in countries undergoing market reforms finds a range of sophisticated responses to complex reforms. Moreover. know suggests politicians they Not only are people uninformed. but they are important in assessing how well democracy works.48 At the macro level the uninformed tend to cancel each other out. Erikson. very poorly informed about the options to vote for efficiency-oriented their countries. does a system with a large number of veto players help or harm democrat and accountability may be weakened.46 Under what conditions should institutions be made accountable and responsive? How well the public is informed obviously plays a role.47 For mandates. Much of the recent work relating institutions to policy outcomes could be reinterpreted in light of quality considerations.Andrew Roberts are not dependence may be at variance with democracy. of policy citizens be informed of what politicians say and do and the consequences a and Stimson show that the macro public possesses choices. the extent of clientelism and corruption. This argu ment has been stressed most strongly inwork on central bank independence. the quality of the media. the performance of subnational governments. Politics is not a self-contained circle of elites. The links are not always direct and clear. The issues described here do not exhaust the problem of democratic quality.

on Policy. 9. "Is Government The Future Too Political. Dahl. in to come to terms with ed." Annual Geddes. 9 34-51. Benjamin Science Review." Journal and Terry Lynn Karl." Journal 1 (April 1996). Shapiro. lead to policies in the best interest of the public?can mandates." "Horizontal Accountability Journal of Democracy. Ibid. "Delegative Democracy. Alan Blinder. at Home and Abroad (New York: W. Press. p. 2003). in Congress. Journal of Democracy. 6. Is Not. Schmitter of 2 (Summer 1991). the crucial question of representation?whether accountability. (New York: Cambridge University Representation Robert PS: Political Science Manin. Adam Przeworski. 75-89. 1999) p. Guillermo O'Donnell. 2 (1999). 23^13.Comparative Politics April 2005 are a triumph for democracy.. Also. "The End of the Transition Paradigm. of Democracy. Democracy. Miller and Stokes tried to encourage data collection in western Europe but also including Brazil. I have avoided Jacobs and Shapiro call this linkage "substantive this term only democracy. The classic debate between those who believe that citizens know best and should be given more control and those who think that important decisions should be left in the hands of knowledgeable politicians and experts is still without a answer. Jr. The dependent variables of these studies will independent variables of the next generation of work. "Democratic Untangling 27 (March 1994). "What Democracy Is. (Oxford: University 12. For a summary of their efforts as well as several belated see Warren Miller. and Bernard 5. Guillermo O'Donnell." Foreign Affairs. 13 (July 1998). 55-69. of Political Science. Thomas Carothers. Democracy. Jeff Jenkins. and source of the public's influence need more study." Journal of Democracy." 374 greater attention to public opinion data.and C. 76 (November-December 1997). Interpreting Elections Press. 27 (March Accountability. Political Political and 10. Susan Stokes. The tion incumbents. inNew Democracies. 10. Political Science Quarterly. Kelley Stanley Kelley. "Constituency 57 (March 1963). 7. Philippe 5-21.. eds." "Illusions about Consolidation. These actions in themselves degree. mainly 11. 9-17. Fareed Zakaria. Illiberal Democracy of Freedom: W. Guillermo O'Donnell." 1994). Policy. 9. Cf. 355-72. Kathy Thelen. 45-56. definitive thus become the NOTES Iwould like to thank Jamie Druckman. 4. the data collected. Warren Miller Science Review. Jacobs and because democracy. See also Robert 105 (Autumn 1990)." I fear that itmay be confused with direct or participatory Lawrence R.. Norton." American Page and Robert Shapiro. 8.. (Princeton: Princeton University 1983). "Studying Substantive Democracy. 5 (January 1994). Policy Representation attempts Western Democracies Oxford Press. 1999). 115-44. on responsiveness in other countries. 2. "The Myth of the Presidential . "What Do We Know about Democratization after Twenty Years." PS: Political Science and Politics. kind. 115-26. and responsiveness be addressed. 112-26. 25-29. recommends Mandate. Y. See Barbara Review (January 2002). and and Politics. and the editors of this journal for help ful comments. Benjamin the Links between Public Opinion Responsiveness? Page. "Effects of Public Opinion 11 (March 1983)." Influence American and Donald Stokes. Once they are better understood... 3. 1.

Patricia Heidotting mandate and what political Conley. Hofferbert. One might similarly argue that by muting systems are more prone to proportional accountability This hypothesis would have to be tested empirically. Patterns of Democracy use of the term mandate does not correspond with the definitions in this paper. G. (Chicago: University to develop similar databases for their own countries. States by contrast. Performance on Retrospective "A Retrospective and Douglas See. 25. "The Semi-Sovereign Public Opinion: Polls. See James Surowiecki. (New Haven: Yale University Investigations. Pivotal Politics: A Theory of U. 391-14. D. 17 (July 199-227. 21. Divided We Govern: Party Control. in Jeff Manza. 1985). Lawmaking. pass fewer laws than those with fewer veto points. finds that systems with a high number of veto points.Andrew Roberts 13. Voting" Political Behavior. that security might be associated with national security rather than economic derstanding security. The Wisdom of Crowds (London: Little Brown." Comparative The Rationality Political Studies. 1994). D. I. Richard and Ian Budge with Hans Kelman. Americans' Policy Preferences (Chicago: University Public: Fifty Years of Trends in 1992). eds. 28. cle. (Boulder: Westview In another interesting work. Roderick Kiewiet Rivers. See Benjamin Press of Chicago. Jr. 37 (May 1993). In proportional replaced in full. 2004). and Democracy Press. 2002). 17. Presidents and Promises: From Campaign Pledges 15." Benjamin Page. Hans-Dieter Policies. Fishel finds that American tend to fulfill or partially fulfill 16. and the Future Page. 32. is virtually governments the only country are difficult in which only to identify in advance two parties receive and are rarely almost all of the votes and seats. Press. presidents most of their specific campaign promises. This approach that citizens vote for. Tsebelis has developed cross-national of the amount of policy change. Parties. Jeff Fishel. (New Haven: Yale University Lijphart. 23. 1991). The for comparativists 1998). following Elster. it is better termed responsiveness. George Tsebelis. Lawmaking of Chicago Press." American Journal of Political Science. in Parliamentary Governments Strom. Cf. Navigating Fay Lomax of American and Benjamin Cook. has been slow to address normative questions philosophy racy. proclaim How Elections the National of Chicago Mandates: Agenda Shape (Chicago: University argues Press.. 369-93. 6 (1984).: Congressional Quarterly Press. 2001). This 1946-1990 Press. Public. Whitten. A better Kaare is identifiability. for example. Policy. Veto Players: How portional systems. 2002). in American database has been widely used in important works See. to Presidential (Washington. Cf. Page and Robert Y. "A Cross-National of Economic 18. but in what situations an elected on a effect it has life. but not of the direction of change. for example.C. Itwould be worthwhile in David Mayhew. 14. Political Institutions Work (Princeton: Princeton University Press. Shapiro. to avoid the misun I use welfare-oriented Stokes. The Rational 20. concerning these two visions. assumes that the issues politicians emphasize are also in their campaigns the ones I. for example. Bingham Powell. 27. politics. Democracy (Oxford: Oxford Press. by Strom "Minority of Nonwinning Cabinet Solutions. the authors call this phenomenon of this arti according Though representation. uses the term security-oriented. University It is hard to identify works in political philosophy 24. Analysis Voting: of Political Context. Klingemann.S. measures 31. Taking Account to the definitions 19. Conley president will Presidential that the important point is not the mandate itself. 29. Arend 26. characteristic of pro Tsebelis. corruption and voter dissatisfaction. and Guy D. 30. term that represent Powell's coined Democracies: 1984). 1999). The United systems. Keith Krehbiel. the institutional Indeed. 375 . political structure of democ Cf. data were originally presented and 22.

1998).. contradicting common finding that the vote for incumbents depends on economic conditions. Markowski." Annual Review of Political Science. and Representation. in Latin America. The Concept See note 2. in proportional ty to pertain. see Alberto Alesina Partisan Politics. demonstrate differences among political parties. Representation. 78 (March-April 1999)." Annual Review of Political Science. Zdenka Mansfeldova. 1967). Radoslaw failures Tell Us to policy failures in less developed about Economic and Development esp. chapter-length and Stimson's The Macropolity. "What Does Political Economy countries. Why were liberal governments for reform liberal governments. Neoliberal Przeworski. Bunce Latin America. Divided and the Economy Government. is a political theorist. might 35. 47. and Howard Rosenthal. One of the coeditors of the book. of Representation (Berkeley: Press. Since some Latin American dictators undertook neoliberal be equated with welfare-oriented policies. Mackuen. 1999). but this argument pushes the problem to win mandates in eastern Europe but not in Latin America? Nationalism on the prior causes. see Sheri Berman and Kathleen McNamara. 376 of California and Lawrence "Central Bank and Macroeconomic Summers. summaries and Democracy and Erikson." of Money. reforms tributional consequences It also contains Democracy and the Market (Cambridge: are not always and unequivocally their many hazards. 70-84. For many citations on research relating information see Philip Keefer. able 34. and Banking. 151-62. and Central "Democracy Alberto Performance: Party University be aware of what will happen yet still want to send the message that they pre . 43. (Cambridge: Cambridge University 38. Poor Cambridge University implementation Press. and serious dis are among of Stokes' Mandates 40." and the nature of the "Democratization to dictatorship opposition Journal and 9 of Democracy. Cooperation (Cambridge: Cambridge that the citizens of eastern Europe are very well informed about pro Press. On political business cycles. Vice Versa. Herbert Kitschelt. good. as are several contributors. Evidence. 1995). Zakaria. past are her speculations Economic Reform. Democracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University 42. April 2005 Politics Comparative thus finds a stronger correlation between She attributes it to the electoral mandate reform in eastern Europe than in and democracy in eastern Europe and the election of back in time. 4 (2001). 41. 37. See Adam 1991). Bernard Manin. 1 (2004)." Foreign Affairs.33. Independence Journal 25 (May 1993). reforms. Deliberative Press. 44. that the probability of a ruler's surviving in office is not related to economic the conditions. Of course. (October 1998). Pitkin. Credit. Jon Elster. 39. Post-Communist and Inter-Party Competition. 48. Press. Alesina Some Banks. and Gabor Toka. responsiveness is not thereby limited. Powell is correct. 45. "Free Politics and Free Markets Jorge Dominguez. The Future of Freedom. Hanna F. 46. Valerie authoritarian Bunce. Przeworski and Limongi find Accountability. they may fer different policies. They suggest that certain Powell's clarity of responsibility?must institutional conditions?perhaps be present for this accountabili are not often replaced But if Indeed. 2-8. Comparative For a critique of this work. systems governments completely. 265-68. to Democracy. ed. 43-65. Systems: University grammatic 49. In a contribution 36.