Issue voting under different institutional contexts

Political communication and effective representation in 37 countries

Stefan Dahlberg
Henrik Oscarsson
Daniel Berlin

Paper prepared for presentation at the XIV NOPSA Conference
August 11-13, 2005 Reykjavik, Iceland

Stefan Dahlberg, Ph. D-student. Göteborg University. +46
(0)31 773 46 86
Henrik Oscarsson, Associate Professor. Göteborg University.
+46 (0)31 773 46 66
Daniel Berlin, Ph. D-student. Göteborg University. +46 (0)31 773
46 00


The impact of electoral systems on party systems has long been regarded as one of the most
important effects of electoral engineering (Duverger 1954; Lijphart 1994; Sartori 1997; 1976a). A
common assumption among rational choice institutionalists is that electoral rules have a certain
impact on the party systems and the patterns of competition, since the adoption of certain rules
creates incentives for rational vote-seeking parties to either emphasize particularistic or
programmatic benefits during the election campaigns (Downs 1957b; Sjöblom 1968). The
strategies adopted by political elites are indirectly expected to influence the voting behavior
among citizens. Yet, it is not quite clear to what extent electoral institutions affect voters on a
micro level, only that they do. By combining contextual variables on electoral system features
with cross-national surveys of voting behavior, we empirically explore how citizens are affected
by the institutional context. A simultaneous modeling of macro and micro data from CSES
shows a weak but significant contextual effect of type of electoral system on voting behavior.
Proportional multiparty-systems seem to induce parties to communicate their policy positions by
means of ideology. The parties’ left-right positions are more known to voters in proportional
systems than in non-proportional systems and the effect of ideology on party choice is also
stronger in proportional systems. The fact that the left-right dimension is not a valid operationalization of ideology in some countries does raise doubts over the validity of the findings. If
only polities where the left-right dimension plays an important role are included, the support for
this main finding becomes stronger. A more elaborated conclusion would be that among
countries where the left-right dimension is an important distinction for voters, we find a
significant effect of institutional context on the levels of ideological voting.
There is a newly awakened interest among political scientists for empirically founded research on
constitutional design and electoral outcome. The vast amount of research in this field have long
focused on how politicians and parties are affected by different institutional factors, which in turn
is believed to have a certain impact upon voters as well. According to Giovanni Sartori, electoral
systems are the most specific and manipulative instrument of politics (Sartori 1997) and few
would today oppose that institutions matter, both explicitly and implicitly (Reynolds 2002; Norris
2003b). Yet, it is not quite clear how electoral institutions affect voters on a micro level, only that
they do. By combining contextual variables on electoral system features with cross-national
surveys of voting behavior, we have the opportunity to empirically examine how citizens are
affected by the institutional context. Our theoretical approach originates from rational choice


Our interest in political perceptions and ideological voting stems from the fact that these factors affect the extent to which voters are meaningfully represented in a political system. Brug 1997: 2). they vote for the party or candidate whose policy-program are in best congruence with the voters’ own preferences (H. Thomassen 1999: 116. the RPM assumes that voters base their decisions on a comparative evaluation of the policy programmes among the competing parties’.institutionalism where we are theorizing on how formal and informal rules1 may affect the behavior of actors within a political system. Esaiasson & Holmberg 1996. policy positions. Regarding voting-behavior. The importance of issue agreement between voters and their representatives in the RPM implies that the model easily can be incorporated in 1 Formal rules are here understood as the legislative framework embedded in official documents or constitutional conventions such as the degree of proportionality. Among the informal rules or “noninstitutional contextual factors” that may influence the individual act of voting. effective thresholds etc. 2 Our definition of an institution relies on B. Hofferbert & Budge 1994. An important prerequisite assessed by the model is that the parties should present divergent and stable policy positions so that voters are given meaningful electoral choices. which we believe is normatively appealing to popular theories of effective representation. Thereafter. More precisely. Klingemann. we are interested in how the institutional contexts affect voters’ perceptions of parties and how this may promote a higher degree of ideological issue voting. 3 . which in turn is believed to influence the voting behavior among individuals. in order to directly influence government policies. as they are important determinants of outcomes of electoral processes (Granberg 1988: 2. J. where one of the most prominent is the responsible party model (RPM). where it has been used for theorising about necessary conditions for citizens to select parties or candidates that represent their preferences. we believe that one of the keys to a well-functioning representative democracy lies in the architectural creation of political institutions (Ferejohn 1990: 6). during the election campaign. i. Adams 2001: ch. The model presumes a prospective mandate where parties. Pennings 1998b). and therefore establish a political space within which many interdependent political actors can function Peters 1999: 44. 1. we refer to variables such as the breadth of alternatives. present coherent policy programs on which voters make their choices.2 Just as James Madison asserted two centuries ago. S. Voting behavior Several models of political representation have been developed over the years. Peters where: institutions are conceptualized as collections of rules and incentives that establish the conditions for bounded rationality. G. the dimensionality of the ideological space and the polarization of the party system.e. The RPM has been the normative foundation in several studies concerning the functions of representative democratic systems.

Voters’ knowledge on matters of political or societal character has been the subject in several studies over the years and most of these studies have come to a similar conclusion: the amount of information among average voters’ is poor. more specifically. Page & Shapiro 1992. Popkin 1991). Gordon 1997. Lupia 1998. Luskin 2003). as acquired by most of the normative theories on representative democracy. Larry M. Bartels 1996. S. 1960. Converse 1964.3 According to 3 The hypothesis that simple. where smallest spatial distance is decisive for how voters choose to cast their ballots. Franklin & van der Brug 1999). van der Brug & van der Eijk 1999. may therefore be considered as being beyond the capability of the vast majority of the democratic citizenry (Delli Carpini & Keeter 1996. According to Thomassen. Thomassen 1999. as it is more likely that well informed. a necessary condition that has to be fulfilled is that voters are informed about the different policy alternatives. Bartels 1996. It rests upon social choice theory as well as the classic Downsian spatial theory of elections.traditional spatial models of electoral competition. Schmitt & Thomassen 1999. rather that ill-informed voters make electoral decisions that reflect their attitudes toward public policies. Zaller 1992. eventually. where actors’ perceptual agreement of the political landscape is an important prerequisite (Downs 1957b). unidimensional party systems makes it easier to produce effective representation. Petersson et al. An important determinant of the quality of the outcomes of electoral processes is the amount of political knowledge among voters. cognitive schemas or belief systems as cost-reducing devices or shortcuts (see fc Downs 1957b. The possibilities for reasoned choices. Lupia 1998). leads to higher policy congruence between masses and elites and. unidimensional belief systems is a desired characteristics of representative democracies as “the effectiveness of the responsible party model depends on the extent to which the policy views of both the masses and elites are constrained by a one-dimensional conflict dimension. Holmberg & Oscarsson 2004. Thomassen’s statement is that simplicity in the political world is important for effective political representation. van der Eijk. a left-right dimension” (H. In short. Thomassen 1999: 34). Rational voters use heuristics such as ideologies. M. J. 1998. Campbell et al. The role of belief systems in models of political representation has recently been highlighted by Jacques Thomassen (Holmberg 1999. J. also produce higher levels of political legitimacy is worth pursuing 4 . If the process of democratic representation is to be acceptable from a normative point of view. His simple but strong argument is well founded. An argument why political representation in mass democracies can work at all – in spite of the fact that citizens in general are not very knowledgeable about political matters is that citizen and elites often share the same belief systems (L.

spoken and understood by both elites and masses that make modern mass democracies not break down. this included. Since the ideological position of an actor can be used to trace the standpoints on a large number of underlying issues (Downs 1957b. 5 . citizens need to have clear and correct perceptions of the main alternatives. The more agreement over parties’ positions in the ideological space. The left-right position as a cognitive cue In this article. ideology provides the fundamental means of communication and constitutes a crucial linkage between citizens and elected representatives. It is also one of the few comparable measurements for belief systems available (Jones 2004. To maintain meaningful mass-elite communication. A range of studies. the stronger the impact of ideology on voters party preferences (Oppenhuis 1995. Franklin & van der Brug 1999). J. is desirable as it is both informative and demands some sort of issue orientation among the voters as required by the RPM. Schmitt & Thomassen 1999). Tillie 1995. as mentioned. although not sufficient. van der Eijk & Franklin 1996). it could be argued that vote-decisions based on ideology. Strong agreement over party positions among voters is being interpreted as an indicator of successful communication of policy standpoints on behalf of the parties. i. we will make use of the Left-Right dimension. from a normative point of view. it is the existence of a common political language. Brug 1997). and what the ideological conflicts in the party system are all about (Berelson 1952). S. Klingemann. van der Brug 1996. condition for the electoral process to function as an effective channel of communication (van der Brug & van der Eijk 1999. how well policy alternatives and issue positions are being communicated to citizens. In this perspective. H. Budge 1987. focus on citizens abilities to perceive political messages from elites. Hofferbert & Budge 1994. A European-wide analysis revealed a weak positive aggregate correlation between voters’ perceptual agreement over parties’ left-right positions and levels of political legitimacy (satisfied with democracy) (Oscarsson 2001). or at least the most important differences between them. An electorate with clear and common perceptions of the party space has repeatedly been identified as one important prerequisite for successful political representation (Converse 1975. Perceptual agreement is considered to be a necessary. The strength with the left-right dimension is.e. van der Eijk.this perspective. since it has been considered as being one of the most universal and salient issue-dimensions within several political systems. left-right ideology does not only structure voters’ preferences but may also be used as an information short cut on parties’ standpoints on several concrete a bit further. Thomassen 1999). that it summarizes positions on a large number of underlying issues and in the end.

Generally speaking. not its content. constantly challenged and reshaped by new ideological dimensions. the more common will voters’ perceptions of the parties’ left-right positions become. 4 We know from a number of national studies that perceptual consensus over parties’ positions is dependent on the saliency of issue dimensions (Brug 1997. Left-Right have important orientational functions for individual citizens. Brug 1997: 38. issues or ideologies. 1981: 192ff). the bipolar left-right construction has shown remarkable resistance. Knutsen 1999. economic leftist and postmaterialist values contribute to leftist identification (Knutsen 1995. reproducing itself in new polities and in new historical and social contexts. Since its birth in the late 18th century. such as the Responsible Party Model. This assumes that voters implicitly use a spatial image in their perceptions of political actors. Therefore. the uni-dimensional mental map of the political landscape may have played a key role in the rise of well functioning representative democracies. the merit of the distinction is the simple distinction itself. Fuchs 1990. religious. More boldly put. Sartori 1976a. Leaders have made extensive use of the left-right grammar for sending political messages that otherwise probably would have been incomprehensible for most voters.4 The left-right distinction is probably most accurately described as a historically successful instrument of communication. Inglehart & Klingemann 1976). Working with this particular data. aggregated measures of perceptual accuracy can be regarded as an indicator of how well the process of political representation works for left-right related issues in a political system. played a crucial role as an information cost reducing device for political actors. This means that the more intensively parties communicate their left-right positions to voters. Brug 1997: 10) which favour the use of spatial models in the study of political communication.(Budge 1987.).issues (Downs 1957a: 98.5 Although the substantive meaning and interpretation of the left-right distinction have not remained the same for two hundred years – albeit for the key element of ‘equality’ (Bobbio 1996) – the distinction has thus. 5 The absorptive power of the Left-Right semantics is impressive. Holmberg 2004. Oscarsson 1998. proportional systems tend to produce a greater number of parties than majoritarian systems (Duverger 1954. and communication functions for political systems (Fuchs & Klingemann 1989. Oscarsson 1998. Why do we expect electoral systems to have an impact on voting behavior? The impact of electoral systems on party systems has long been regarded as one of the most important effects of electoral engineering. while secular. liberal economic and materialist values all contribute to rightist identification among citizens. 6 . For instance. 1999a. ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ have proven to be powerful spatial metaphors that greatly help communicate political preferences and ideological standpoints between elites and masses in modern democracies – one of the keystones in many popular models of political representation. we have no other ideological dimensions for which parties’ and voters’ placements have been measured. Thus.

countries that are using any form of proportional representation have twice as many parliamentary parties than countries using any form of majoritarian electoral system (Norris 2003b: 84.7 Consequently. For the same reasons. Sartori argues that a proportional system do not multiply the number of parties in it self. The adoption of a proportional partylist formula may increase the number of parties in a political system and increase the incentives for the development of programmatic ideologically driven political parties and the presence of a shared belief system and a commonly spoken political language is an essential ingredient for a well functioning representative political system. An electoral system is therefore more or less proportional or majoritarian 7 The expectation that single member plurality systems will produce a two-party system has not gained fully empirical support. Effective well-functioning parties may serve several important tasks in a political system by simplifying electoral choices. organize campaigns. aggregate interests.).1997. In general. Golder 2005). Lijphart 1994. since the adoption of certain rules creates incentives for rational vote-seeking politicians to either emphasize particularistic or programmatic benefits during the election campaigns (Downs 1957b.6 Rational choice institutionalism emphasizes that formal rules generate incentives that are shaping and constraining the rational goal-seeking behavior of the actors within a political system (Laver 1997. Sjöblom 1968). 7 . a plurality system cannot by itself produce a two party system but will help to maintain an existing one (Grofman & Lijphart 1986: 2-5. The strategies adopted by political elites are then. A common assumption is then that electoral rules exerts an influence on the party systems and the patterns of competition. coherence and programmatic campaigning.) For example. PR may in some cases remove pre-existing obstacles and thereby open up for new parties. 6 This division should thus not be thought of as a dichotomy since most electoral systems are a combination of functions from them both. voters tend to vote for parties instead of single candidates. Lijphart 1994. In such a system.) Nevertheless. Peters 1999). be expected to be effective in promoting party discipline. indirectly expected to influence the voting behavior of citizens. proportional party-list formulas tend to produce incentives to shift the attention from individual politicians with particularistic policies to political parties with programmatic policies (Norris 2003b. A candidate’s personal characteristics may then be considered as less important as they are acting more on behalf of the party. The candidates are also dependent on the parties for their election as the party leadership nominates them through the party-lists. it is clear that electoral formulas have a fundamental impact on the characteristics of the party systems (Sartori 1997. in an attempt to decrease the party fragmentation and to promote stable governments (Lijphart 1998. The number of parties in a political system is also dependent on the level of the effective threshold that is applied in many proportional systems. Those who want to predict the number of parties in a given political context must also consider the patterns of the social cleavages and not only the type of electoral system (Volwes 2004. Party-ballots can thus. instead. this is an indirect effect of the proportional formula. Sjöblom 1968). channelling the debate and select candidates (Dalton 2000) which in turn may affect voters’ perceptions of party positions and their voting behavior. Duverger 1954.

S. Gilljam 1997. Given these assumptions.8 Reasonably. Adams 2001: 97. 1995).9 The number of social cleavages in a political system is not necessarily affecting the number of parties in a political system (Jones 2004) and the parties are not by themselves capable of creating societal cleavages but they may induce or suppress already existing ones (Lipset & Rokkan 1967. Instead. the advocators of the directional theory claims that voters in general are unable to recognise slighter adjustments in policy positions among parties. Nevertheless. While a two party system will make the parties to converge ideologically at the median voter position. as it will be more likely that the voters know the position of a party with such a position. since proportional systems tend to produce multiparty systems that in turn may maintain or even reinforce existing cleavages.) 9 Our definition of a social cleavage rests on the work of Bartolini and Mair. Sjöblom 1968). parties in a multiparty system will maintain the clarity in their positions since they are not necessarily striving to attract the median voters (Downs 1957a: 115-27. i. which should facilitate for voters to perceive the differences between them. electoral rules influence the patterns of competition and in line with spatial models of party competition. voters evaluate parties’ policies on their direction and intensity rather than in terms of their closeness to a voters’ own policy position. Sartori 1976b). O.e. religious.As stated earlier. When certain types of electoral formulas tend to affect the number of parties. When more parties are encouraged in the competition. centripetal or centrifugal competition. Mainly because some parties may be more attached to alternative cleavages. which in turn is expected to be decisive for the degree of competition. such as environmentalist. Bartolini 1990. In 8 In contrast to the proximity theory. Rabinowitz 1989. voters may find it difficult to discern the policy positions between the parties. there is an upper limit where the effective number of parties within a system will exceed the benefits with breadth of alternatives. the number of cleavages in a society may still be decisive for the effectiveness of the communication between parties and voters. other historical factors account for the dimensionality in a political system. the initial adoption of certain rules such as a proportional formula may increase the incentives for bonding strategies among the competing parties. where a cleavage exists if there is an interest conflict characterized by a) a social differentiation b) that is institutionalized and c) politically organized (Bartolini 1990. MacDonald 1991. If too many parties are involved in the competition. the perceptual agreement on a party’s position may be expected to be higher for parties with extremer positions. Merill III 1999. more parties mean greater polarization. they will face centrifugal incentives to take more dispersed positions in the policy space (Cox 1990. 8 . However. See (Rabinowitz 1991: 157-66. Knutsen. which should increase the degree of ideological issue voting.or linguistic parties. parties in a multiparty system will try to position themselves more ideologically and differentiate themselves as much as possible from the competing parties around in an attempt to mobilize their electoral support. Reasonably. why the clarity in their positions will be depending on the saliency of the different cleavages. but this is an empirical question. Westholm 1997. E.

plurality systems. So far. with several parties involved in the competition. parties may adopt bridging strategies that may suppress the group consciousness in the electoral arena and even downplay the importance of pre-existing cleavages (Norris 2003b). Reasonably. both for how voters perceive the parties but also on their voting behavior. Something that can be expected to have far-reaching consequences. Perceptual agreement and the degree of ideological voting will be higher among voters in: a proportional. the parties will face centrifugal incentives to take more dispersed positions in an attempt to profile themselves from other competing parties and a high degree of polarization will.67 percentages (Farrell 2001. which also should imply higher levels of ideological proximity. The lowest electoral threshold is to be found in the Netherlands where it is . A high degree of disproportionality may induce tactical voting where citizens are voting for their second choice instead of their first hand preferences. but not too many. If proportional systems imply that parties will adopt bridging strategies. why there are no completely proportional system. which in a broader sense claims that it is all about simplicity. characterized by the occurrence of both party-list ballots and an electoral threshold and a polarized party system where several.10 This leads us toward our main hypothesis. and 2). parties are involved in the competition. facilitate for the voters to apprehend the positions of the parties. in turn. the more likely it is that voters will vote on their first hand choice. on the other hand. and parties within such a system will adopt bridging strategies and try to differentiate and positioning them selves more ideologically in an attempt to maintain the clarity in their positions. 10 There is always some distortion embedded in the electoral systems due to various factors. since: 1).) 9 . Proportional systems tend to produce multiparty systems. However. we have mainly focused on effects of electoral systems in terms of the simple dichotomy between majoritarian and proportional systems.or majoritarian systems. This may in turn decrease the incentives for gathering accurate information of the different policy alternatives (Gordon 1997). uni-dimensional political system. then the voters within these systems should obtain higher levels of perceptual agreement and to a higher extent lean upon ideological issue voting than in plurality. the more proportional a system is. a constitutional order that bring large votes/seats disparities where the seat allocation is not congruent with the parties actual vote share may also reduce the incentives for individuals to be fully involved.

a liberal-conservative scale was used.12 A universal application of such a left-right scale is not uncontroversial. Data. we now finally have the opportunity to test this empirically. electoral rules and formulas. 12 10 . which will increase the perceptual agreement and the degree of ideological voting among the voters. Where would you place yourself on a scale from 0 to 10 where 0 means the left and 10 means the right”. So.11 Our analysis is based on data from CSES module 1 and 2. We know from earlier studies that the left-right distinction obviously makes a lot more sense in some countries than in others (Huber & Inglehart 1995. We also know that the substantive meaning of the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ differ much between polities and even between decades in the same polity. and macro-level data on aggregate electoral returns. Klingemann 1995). but rather to systematically examine traditional assumptions about the effect of electoral systems on voting behavior and effective representation. how can we justify the use of left-right division as a world-wide operationalization of ideology? 11 The data can be downloaded from: www. besides that it is cross-national. With access to a new cross-national dataset containing data on both voters and institutions. candidate and party evaluations etc.In sum. In the Netherlands. This allows us to conduct both cross-level. is that it contains both micro-level data that include vote choice. the more proportional an electoral system is the more likely it is that the political representatives will communicate their policies in terms of ideology. a ten-point scale 1-10 was used instead of an eleven-point scale. where respondents in some 37 countries were asked to place themselves and the parties on an eleven-point left-right scale 0-10. design and operationalizations This study uses data from the CSES (Comparative Study of Electoral Systems) which is a collaborative project of cross-national research among election studies conducted in over fifty states.umich. as well as cross-national analyses on the effects of electoral institutions on voting In Japan. The purpose with these not too daring hypotheses is not as much an attempt to win new terrain. The strengths with the dataset. The CSES-question was: “In politics people sometimes talk of left and right.

which undoubtedly also belong to the Western European culturalhistorical sphere. we can explain large portions of the dependent variable party choice just by asking respondents about their own left-right position. 18 of 37 countries in the study have correlations higher than eta=. Note that there are no non-European countries with high correlations. you will find many reasons to expand the analysis with one. there are only weak bivariate correlations between citizens’ left-right orientations and party choice. In sum. Belgian Wallonia. Norris 2003a). Anckar 2002). Czechoslovakia (eta=. We have earlier argued that effective representation largely rests upon successful communication and that a prerequisite for ideological issue voting is that the parties actually are appealing to the voters in terms of ideology and that they have managed to communicate their ideological 13 Of course. probably the most uni-dimensional party space in Europe (Oscarsson 2001. the operational classification of electoral systems has been into three large categories: proportional list systems. Party choice is highly correlated with left-right ideology also in Spain.50. In polities as Romania.A simple indicator of the importance of the left-right dimension in a polity is the strength of the bivariate relationship between party choice and voters’ self-reported ideological left-right positions (see table 1). Portugal and Switzerland. Israel. the left-right dimension’s inability to perform well outside a Western-European cultural-political context is an important result in itself and will have consequences for the remaining analyses in this article. and majoritarian systems (see Holmberg 2002. Iceland. In conclusion.72). In these countries. with the exception of New Zeeland (eta=.77).). In previous analyses of CSES data. Shugart & Wattenberg 2001. The importance of left-right ideology is substantively higher on the European continent than outside Europe.76) and Poland (eta=. semi-proportional combined systems. if you dig deeper into the ideological space of national polities. two or more important ideological dimensions. Again. In the CSES data.) 11 . Taiwan and Peru. Even in Sweden. more in-depth analysis must expand the number of dimensions to two (Oscarsson 1998. Many categorizations of electoral systems have been applied in contemporary research. and there is an on-going debate over what distinctions are most fruitful for empirical analysis (Powell 2000. the relationship between left-right ideology and party choice are high. it is fairly unproblematic to use left-right ideology as a single indicator of ideology in these countries. Korea. The rich variation of electoral systems in the world also makes it complicated for political comparativists.13 In general. Denmark.64). the highest correlations are found in Sweden (eta=. or even single issue dimensions.

the higher perceptual agreement (van der Eijk 1998). the communication has obviously failed. 10 and 11-point ordered rating scales can be acquired by sending a mail to Henrik. The PA-measure has been employed a number of times in similar analyses (van der Eijk & Franklin 1996: 433-4. such as Sweden. we will perform the procedure of “stacking” the data-set (see van der Eijk & 14 The calculations of Cees van der Eijks Measure of Perceptual Agreement were made in SAS. which in some cases is a drastic limitation. where all voters place a party at the same position). where half of the voters place the party on the most leftist position and half of the voters place the party on the most rightist position) to +1 (perfect unimodality. we will continue the analysis with ideological issue voting.14 A high degree of agreement among voters on parties’ policy positions may then be interpreted as that the parties have managed to communicate their policy positions successfully.Oscarsson@pol. It is thus. Which parties to include in the final data set has been decided by the research teams behind the respective national election studies. 12 . 15 In the CSES data set. we only include the respondents who voted for parties for which we have available data on left-right positions. and reflects the deviation from a unimodal distribution and ranges from −1 (perfect bimodality. A full list of what parties are included in the study can be found in the Appendix. Nevertheless. This means that for many multi-party systems included in this study. the Netherlands.positions to the voters so that they have clear and consistent perceptions of the party positions. van der Brug & van der Eijk 1999: 137-9). we will use an estimate that originally was developed by Cees van der Eijk (van der Eijk 1998). i. the number of parties for which we have left-right placements are limited to six. have more than six relevant parties. The most straightforward way to operationalize ideological proximity is simply by calculating the absolute difference between the respondents’ self-reported left-right position and the parties’ positions along the eleven-point left-right scale. and The syntax for calculating PA-measures for 7. If ideology. quite unlikely that this actually will happen. For measuring the degree of perceptual agreement among voters. the party systems have been truncated. In many analyses. Ideological proximity will range from 0 (minimum voterparty distance) to 10 (maximum voter-party distance). Uniform distributions will get a PA-value of is going to work as a more or less accurate information shortcut for the different policy alternatives that a voter is facing during an election. The higher the PA-value gets.e. PA is calculated for each individual party (se Appendix) and can also be aggregated into an overall measure of perceptual agreement in a political system. Perceptual agreement among voters is not necessarily the same as perceptual accuracy. The measure of Perceptual Agreement is developed for ordered rating scales.15 In a second step. To estimate the effects on probability to vote for a party. in some cases dramatically so. left-right position. such as the eleven-point left-right scale. Many multi-party systems. and therefore we consider perceptual agreement to be a valid indicator on the degree of success in political communication (Brug 1997: 44). the parties have to be able to communicate their left-right positions to the voters. if a majority of the voters are agreeing on the wrong position of a party.

In table 1. Consequently. namely party-voter dyads. Thus. Holmberg 2002). The party choice variable will become a binary response variable (0=did not vote for the party. In each polity. since parties in proportional systems have higher incentives to carefully communicate ideological standpoints and mark the ideological distances to other alternatives (Downs 1957b). allowing to estimate the probability to vote for the party with logistic regression.Franklin 1996) and thereby convert to a new unit of analyses. In turn. If all this is correct. effective number of parties (Duverger 1954). Included in the table are the measure of left-right 13 . we also expect that the ideological positions of parties’ will be more well known to voters in a proportional list system than in majoritarian. the 37 countries in the analysis have been sorted according to the correlation (eta) between left-right orientation and party choice. This hypothesis can be deduced from the simple fact that proportional list systems tend to offer more choices. 1=voted for the party). we expect ideology to play a more important role in multi-party list proportional systems than in two-party candidate-oriented majoritarian systems since parties in a multiparty system are prone to differentiate and positioning themselves in terms of ideology in an attempt to maintain the clarity in their positions(Downs 1957b: 115-27). Perceptual agreement and ideological voting under different institutional contexts How does the institutional context affect the political communication and the level of ideological issue voting in a polity? Do parties in proportional multiparty systems communicate in terms of ideology and are voters in these systems inclined to vote ideologically? In this analysis. we expect perceptual agreement and the effects of ideological proximity on party choice to be greater in proportional systems than in majoritarian systems. The perceptual accuracy and perceptual agreement will be higher in proportional election systems than in semi-proportional or majoritarian systems.e. we will estimate the effects of different institutional settings on the perceptual agreement among voters and the effects of ideological left-right proximity on the probability to vote for a party under different electoral systems. i. and that voters in proportional list systems more often choose between political programs of parties and not between candidates (Holmberg & Oscarsson 2003. voters in proportional list systems need to develop skills and well-functioning cognitive schemas to be able to comprehend political messages from the party elites and orient themselves ideologically. there will be as many party-voter dyads as there are respondents times the number of parties.

and the Weighted Perceptual Agreement (WPA) for each polity. We also included the type of electoral system (CSES-categorizations). 14 . degree of disproportionality.polarization (Wing Party Distance). the effective number of parties (Anckar 2002). along with some characteristics of the electoral systems (effective threshold.

93 2. 17 This variable does only refer to the degree of uni-dimensionality as such and is yet not specifically related to the left-right dimension.39 . 5.071 .0 3. 3.51 0. 8.047 .71 5.97 2. 2.494 .509 . .406 .52 . Note: Data on Electoral Systems are from the CSES macro data set. Dis-proportionality Election System (CSES) List PR List PR List PR List PR List PR List PR List PR List PR List PR Semi-Prop List PR Semi-Prop Quasi-Prop Mixed List PR Semi-Prop List PR Majority Qvasi-Maj Mixed Semi-Prop Qvasi-Prop Mixed Majority Qvasi-Maj Mixed Majority (Alt Vote) List PR Prop Majority Quasi-Maj Mixed List PR Prop List PR Qvasi-Maj Mixed Qvasi-Maj Mixed List PR List PR Qvasi-Maj Mixed Majority Majority Effective # of parties 1998 1996 1997 2000 1999 1996 1998 2002 1999 1997 1997 1998 1996 1998 1999 1996 1997 1998 1996 1998 1997 1996 1996 1999 2000 1996 1997 2000 1998 1996 2000 1996 1999 2001 2000 2001 2001 Country Sweden Czechoslovakia Poland Spain Iceland Israel Denmark Portugal Switzerland Lithuania Norway Ukraine New Zeeland The Netherlands Russia Spain Great Britain Hungary Slovenia Germany Canada Japan Australia Belgium Hong Kong USA Mexico Peru Hong Kong Romania Korea Taiwan Belgium Peru Mexico Belarus Thailand Effective Threshold Election Year (WPA)16 and Correlation between Left-Right Self Placements and Party Choice (Eta.82 . .4 .038 .45 .157 .44 .43 .05 .8 .29 0.35 4.516 .11 0. Cramer’s V) 7. .1 1.42 0. .0 2.6 . . . proportion for group i of votes.111 Eta .51 0.12 6. 22.485 . .6 .063 .53 0. .35 0.033 .95 6. 32 11.54 .6 5.7 16.49 . 37.44 .52 5.6 4.662 .01 5.58 0.86 6.025 .Table 1: Type of Election System.94 2. .98 3.62 0.38 0.0 5. disproportionality.2 8.038 . 2.45 0.402 .44 . 3.59 0.49 0.4 .51 . 1. 32 11. .3 Dimensionality17 4.39 . for which the perceptual agreement has been calculated.9 .37 .0 9.51 .5 4.312 . 4. have been weighted according to the election results (percentages). For this reason it is not included in the analysis. .41 .5 9. .65 0.5 1.0 37. 4. 8. . effective number of parties and government stability is from Anckar (2003).5 2.52 . .60 5.20 4.58 3. 22.44 . .62 0.3 Wing Party Distance (WPD) 0. .6 8.6 .38 6.698 .7 .54 .011 Na .8 4. 3.02 .41 0. . 37.3 5.718 . .12 3.34 3.5 16.6 3. . which it will be in the near future by a Spearman correlation between the ordering of the parties along the j-scale obtained from the unfolding analysis and the left-right ordering of the parties. n ∑i=1 i .771 .40 . 0. 2. .68 .59 . .8 0.125 .01 .42 0.2 . .3 3. Data on effective threshold. . .654 .66 3.59 0.63 . .5 2.1 3. . Disproportionality.45 0.090 .39 .05 . 9.0 1.10 .60 .656 .9 10. where 1/H then is the effective number of parties.56 3.9 8. 5.1 13. 0. 13. Effective Number of Parties.89 5.53 0.9 2.43 . 2. .1 .37 0.323 .50 . .37 . 11.5 5. where pi is the population The effective number of parties is calculated from Herfindahl’s index of concentration.04 .195 .65 0.0 6.19 2.293 .063 .21 5.7 37. . 3. .7 2.639 .45 . Wing Party Ideological Left-Right Distance (WPD).1 .17 .23 2.36 .6 2. .8 .688 .265 .589 . This measure has the pleasant feature that H= p2 16 The parties.568 .1 .35 2.6 2. 3.26 .43 . . 2.0 0.45 .025 .50 0.079 .025 .3 4.59 0.03 0.5 3.09 0. Effective Threshold.262 .063 .648 .39 .88 2.687 .08 .34 .521 .701 .38 Government Stability 4.6 9.44 2.8 .57 .13 4.6 . Perceptual Agreement (WPA) . .56 .3 .675 .50 .399 . 37. 5.42 0. 5.0 5. 6.35 3.755 .49 4.0 .14 1.52 0. . 3.33 6.0 2.00 4.78 8.1 13. 5.68 0. 15 . 4. 0.112 .62 0.385 . Weighted Perceptual Agreement .0 . 25.

is not very surprising since we expected that proportional electoral systems should facilitate the communication between parties and voters in terms of ideology.38). It was also expected that the left-right polarization should be highly correlated with perceptual agreement (rPAxWPD=. seems to co-occur with a high amount of ideological issue voting. polarized systems are promoting an effective representation since greater polarization seems to facilitate for voters to perceive parties’ ideological positions. which indicates that the importance of the left-right distinction is negligible in the Peruan party system. The degree of proportionality has been calculated as the average deviation between the vote and the seat share of the two largest parties in each election (Pennings 1999a: 261). Obviously.12). Among the top-ten countries in table 1. It is also evident that a high degree of perceptual agreement. religion seems to be the main ideological conflict. thus.38) or mixed electoral systems (Average WPA=. based on party evaluations where the respondents were asked to rate the parties on a scale from 0 to 10. there are no parties in Peru that fit well into the categorization of party families used in the CSES. 18 The highest levels of left-right polarization can be found in Czechoslovakia (WPD=8. alternatively that the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ have no substantial meaning to voters. Instead.35). In Hong-Kong and Taiwan. Pennings 1999a: 259-61) Polarization is a simple measure of the wing party distance. left-right ideology is not a very appropriate measure of will equal n when there are exactly n groups of size 1/n (Lijphart 1984: 120.49) (see table 3). the higher are the levels of perceptual agreement over parties’ left-right positions. a first simple indicator of how successful an application of the left-right division is in a polity and an indicator on the degree of left-right competitiveness. In some other countries.67).48). The rather strong relationship between type of electoral system and perceptual agreement in table 2 (. The left-right polarization is. and Peru (WPD=2. Dimensionality refers to the degree of uni-dimensionality and is computed with MUDFOLD 2. The greater left-right distance between the two flanking parties in a system. with the exception of Spain and The Netherlands. parties compete mainly along a dimension pro-con mainland China. Obviously. Taiwan (WPD=2. nine have proportional systems. which is calculated as the difference between the means of the most leftist.51) than voters under majoritarian (Average WPA=.93). 19 A bivariate correlation between WPA and Eta yields a coefficient of . For these polities. 16 . Pearson’s r.0. where 0 means strongly dislike that party and 10 strongly like that party. the perceived left-right polarization is very low.75. which may limit the scope of the following analyses. notably HongKong (WPD=1.78) and Poland (WPD=6. indicating that the left-right distinction is not very important.19 A more elaborated analysis of the relationship between the institutional context and perceptual agreement confirms that voters under list proportional electoral systems tend to agree more over parties’ left-right positions (Average WPA=.33). Sweden (WPD=7.and the most rightist parties18 (see Gilljam & Oscarsson 1996). which must be regarded as a rather strong support for the hypothesis that proportional systems tend to induce ideological proximity voting.

Disproportionality.11 Wing Party Distance . most likely the relationship is curve-linear as. 2 for Qvasi-maj. we list the results from the logistic regression analyses performed within each polity available in the data set in order to examine the effect of ideological distance on the probability to vote for a party.5 to 5 effective number of parties (4. Reasonably because the results from the mudfold analysis are connected to the degree uni-dimensionality in general and is not specifically related to the left-right dimension as the PA-measure is. Effective Threshold.045 1 Election systems were coded for the CSES-categorization as 1 if majoritarian. 5 for prop and 6 for List PR. According to the results in table 3. perceptual agreement seems to be promoted by party systems containing of approximately 2. We have sorted the data according to the overall fit of the regression model (Pseudo R2). The weak impact of the effective number of parties is in line with the simplicityhypothesis.37 Effective # of Parties . 4 for qvasi-prop. Bivariate correlations between Weighted Perceptual Agreement and Type of Election System. The degree of uni-dimensionality is positively co-varying with PA but the relationship is weak and insignificant.Table 2. * Correlation is significant at the 0.7 in average among the list-proportional countries). ** Correlation is significant at the 0.48* Effective Threshold .01 level (2-tailed).11 Government Stablility . 3 for semi.05 level (2-tailed). Effective Number of Parties.-53** Disproportionality -. ** Correlation is significant at the 0. In table 3. 17 . Wing Party Ideological Left-Right Distance (WPD) (Pearsons r and Eta). Perceptual Agreement Election System1 . The negative and significant correlation between effective threshold and PA supports the relationship between type of electoral system and PA as a high electoral threshold may have a similar effect on a party system as the majoritarian electoral formula by reducing the number of parties. Thereafter. since a complex party-system with a great number parties involved in the competition. should make it even harder for the voters to perceive their positions clearly.prop. the PA are decreasing as the number of parties grows bigger. Coefficient for Election System is Eta value.67** Uni-dimensionality .01 level (2tailed).

56 -.Table 3 Effects of ideological left-right proximity on voting within different electoral systems (Logistic effects.39 149314 -.73 -.32 -.45 .67 -.36 +.26 .21 .12* -.08 .53 -.61 -. whereas in Korea.01* -. Pseudo R2) Year 2002 1998 1998 2000 1996 1998 1996 1998 1999 1996 1997 1997 1999 1998 1997 1997 1999 1997 1996 1996 1998 1996 1999 2001 2000 1996 1996 2000 1999 1997 Election System EffecCountry (CSES) tive n Portugal List PR 726 Ucraine Semi-Prop 241 Denmark List PR 1537 Spain List PR 682 Israel List PR 504 Sweden List PR 789 Tjeckien List PR 962 Hungary Qvasi-Maj 753 Mixed Iceland List PR 1121 New Zeeland Quasi-Prop 2827 Mixed Canada Majority 945 Norway List PR 1527 Switzerland List PR 993 1411 The Netherlands List PR Great Britain Majority 1853 Poland List PR 945 Russia Semi-Prop 849 Lithuania Semi-Prop 165 Spain List PR 756 Australia Majority (Alt 1312 Vote) Germany Qvasi-Prop 1461 Mixed Slovenia Semi-Prop 642 Belgium Flanders List PR 1584 Peru List PR 642 Mexico Quasi-Maj 1016 Mixed Taiwan Qvasi-Maj 356 Mixed Romania List PR 451 Korea Qvasi-Maj 574 Mixed Belgium List PR 1227 Wallonia Mexico Quasi-Maj 247 Mixed All Countries 29119 Voterparty dyads 4202 1047 9010 2919 2407 4700 5612 3641 5272 15190 4431 9113 4859 8146 5864 5397 4703 477 3339 6175 8536 3141 9345 3482 5412 1013 2104 2910 5444 1360 Intercept +.36 -.35 .12 +.16 .07 .03* Pseudo R2 . Peru (2000). there are very small or non-existing effects of ideological left-right proximity on party choice.02 .18 .82 -.94 -.13 -1.38 -.10 . Denmark and Spain.36 .25 .00* .25 .66 -.43 Logistic effect (b) -.17 -. but there is no clear-cut association.71 -1.33 .57 -.09 .17 . As expected. Thailand and USA is excluded from the analysis.22 .13 .80 -.56 -.23 -. In concord with previous findings.31 -.56 -.78 -. The probability to vote for a party decreases with ideological distance.13 .60 -.45 -. In some non-proportional systems.15* -.57 -.09 -.17 Note: Belarus.42 -.10 .17 -. the best model fit (Nagelkirkes maximum rescaled pseudo R2) is found in Portugal. the level of ideological left-right voting is very high.43 -.12 . What about the effects of institutional contexts? Seven of the top ten countries in table 3 do have proportional list electoral systems.24 -. Ukraine.22 -. Japan.10* -.19 . there are significant and large negative bivariate effects of ideological distance on party choice in many of the countries where the left-right dimension is strong.13 .51 .26 .33 .52 -.46 -. Hong-Kong.64 -. due to lack of data on both left-right self-placements and party-placements.02* -.34 -.41 -.10* -. Peru and Mexico.22 .26 .22 -.67 -. Belgian Wallonia.25 .14 -. * means that the coefficient is not significant (p>.11* . Taiwan.31 -.29 -. Romania.81 -.16 .29 -.00* -.75 -.21 -. such as in Ukraina.47 -. Hungary and 18 .05).01* +.21 .29 -1.

4 .3 . A more formal test of the impact of institutional context is of course possible. And there are a number of proportional systems where the levels of ideological left-right voting is very low. For all countries included in the study. there is a larger negative effect of ideological distance on voting probability in proportional list systems than in non-proportional list systems. Figure 1: Ideological Proximity x Probability to Vote in Proportional List Systems vs Semi-Proportional/Majoritarian Systems. Figure 3 show the estimated probabilities to vote for parties that are located at different left-right distances from a voter. Only respondents voting for parties that were located on the leftright dimension is included in the analysis. such as in Romania. 1=proportional) on the relationship between ideological proximity and probability to vote. i. but nevertheless give at least some support to the hypothesis.0 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Note: Data are from CSES Module 1 (unweighted).e.5 . 19 . This simple analysis and the findings may not convince us that proportional list systems encourages ideological voting.2 . . The filled line represents the probability-to-vote curve among voters in proportional list systems. The dotted line represents the probability-to-vote curve proximity among voters in nonproportional list systems. That the institutional effect is very small can be illustrated by the estimated probability functions in figure 1. The probabilites to vote are estimated from a logistic regression analysis of a stacked dataset (voter-party dyads). The probability curve is somewhat steeper in polities that have proportional list systems.e. the effects of ideological proximity are larger in proportional systems than in non-proportional systems. i. The results show that there is a small but significant institutional effect on ideological voting.e. semi-proportional/majoritarian systems.1 0. Belgium and Peru. i.New Zeeland. we can model a multiplicative interaction effect of electoral system (0=nonproportional.

Nevertheless. The parties’ leftright positions are more known and common to voters in proportional systems and the effect of ideology on party choice is stronger in proportional systems than in non-proportional systems. However. which affects both the perceptions and the voting behavior among the citizens. A simultaneous modeling of macro and micro data showed a weak but significant contextual effect of type of electoral system (proportional vs. Among the top-ten countries with the highest eta-values between left-right orientation and party choice. Our main expectation. whereby a more elaborated conclusion would be that among countries where left-right dimension is an important distinction for voters. nine out of ten countries had proportional systems. Proportional multiparty-systems seem to a higher extent to induce parties to communicate their policy positions by means of ideology. gained support by the data.Conclusions In this article some first steps towards a more systematic study of the impact of institutional context on voting behavior have been taken. if only polities where the left-right dimension plays an important role are included. This indicates that the left-right dimension is not a valid operationalization of ideology in some countries. The results from the initial diagnostic analyses show that the left-right dimension not is very salient or meaningful in some of the countries included in the study. There were a rather strong positive relationship between type of electoral system and perceptual agreement (. Here.48) and left-right polarization (. non-proportional) on PA and the level of ideological voting. which raises doubts over the validity of the findings. The effect of the institutional context on ideological distance versus the probability to vote for a party did however. 20 . we find a significant effect of institutional context on the levels of ideological voting. we have estimated the effect of institutional context on the relationship between ideological left-right proximity and party choice in 37 countries. the support for this main finding becomes stronger.67). not produce any clear-cut evidence even though seven of the top ten countries did have proportional list electoral systems. regarding the relationship between high perceptual agreement and ideological proximity voting among voters in proportional systems with polarized multiparty systems. there is a small and significant effect on that ideological proximity is larger in proportional systems than in non-proportional systems.

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