March 10, 1995
Members of the Planning Committee:
Rita Bajarunieni (Lithuania)
John Curtice (Great Britain)
Juan Diez Nicolas (Spain)
Oscar Hernandez (Costa Rica)
Soren Holmberg (Sweden)
Hans-Dieter Klingemann (Germany)
Marta Lagos (Chile)
Filipe B. Miranda (Philippines)
Yoshitaka Nishizawa (Japan)
Steven J. Rosenstone (United States)
Jacques Thomassen (Netherlands)
Gabor Toka (Hungary)
Consultants to the Planning Committee:
Gary Cox (University of California, San Diego)
Ekkehard Mochmann (Zentralarchiv fur empirische Sozialforschung)
Richard Rockwell (Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research)
Herman Schmitt (European Election Study)
W. Phillips Shively (Comparative Political Data Board)
Center for Political Studies
Institute for Social Research
Ann Arbor, Michigan, 48106-1248, USA
The Comparative Study of Electoral Systems
Preliminary Recommendations of the Planning Committee
The Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) is a collaborative program of cross-national research among election studies conducted in forty-seven consolidated and emerging democracies. The goal of this collaboration is to illuminate how the institutions that govern the conduct of elections constrain the beliefs and behaviors of citizens to condition the nature and quality of democratic choice as expressed through popular elections. By coordinating the collection of electoral data across polities, the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems strives to advance the understanding of enduring and fundamental debates about electoral behavior in a way not possible through the secondary analysis of existing data. Social scientists from around the world have collaborated to specify the research agenda, the study design, and the micro- and macro-level data that indigenous teams of researchers will collect within each polity.
In March 1994, the International Committee for Research into Elections and Representative Democracy (ICORE) circulated to directors of election studies around the world a stimulus paper that identified several themes around which collaborative data collection might be organized, sketched a study design, and suggested how the planning process might unfold. A Steering Committee (comprised of Thomassen, Rosenstone, Klingemann, and Curtice) invited colleagues to comment on the paper and to participate in an initial planning conference scheduled for August 20-21, 1994 in Berlin at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin fur Sozialforschung. Eighty-five social scientists responded with comments and suggestions that were summarized in a second document.
Social scientists representing thirty-one democracies, participated in the Berlin Planning Conference where discussion focused on the need for comparative electoral data, the intellectual agenda, strategies for coordinating micro- and macro-level data collections, the lessons that should be learned from previous cross-national efforts, and how the project's planning activities should unfold. Collaborators in Berlin charged an international Planning Committee comprised of social scientists from Eastern and Western Europe, Asia, and the Americas with several tasks: formulate recommendations on the content of a questionnaire module; identify background data to be collected; specify macro-level data to be gathered; draft aspired to standards of data quality; and establish norms and standards for archiving and disseminating the data. Following the Berlin Conference, the Planning Committee communicated with collaborators around the world to solicit their advice on these topics.
The American National Election Studies (which was asked to serve a two-year term as Secretariat for the project) organized the January 1995 meeting of the Planning Committee with financial support from the U.S. National Science Foundation. Two weeks before the meeting, the Secretariat distributed to members of the Planning Committee twohundred pages of written materials relevant to the Committee's deliberations. The documents studied by each committee member included: correspondence to the Planning Committee; a detailed summary of the suggestions that social scientists had made concerning the project; a listing of background and attitude measures currently employed in various cross-national opinion surveys; a collection of the alternative wordings employed in various national election study questionnaires for the items being considered for inclusion in the CSES survey module; and detailed summaries of the advice that prospective collaborators had offered concerning the project.
The Planning Committee met on January 26-28, 1995 in Ann Arbor, Michigan at the Institute for Social Research. Although it is relatively easy to summarize the recommendations, it is difficult to convey the genuine collegial spirit that characterized the deliberations. This project has truly been a collaborative effort. Every member of the Planning Committee participated in discussion and debate over the merits of the various organizing themes around which the data collaboration might focus. Everyone strove to understand the different points of view that colleagues from diverse political cultures brought to the table. Every member of the Planning Committee contributed to each aspect of this report. The Committee worked to formulate a set of recommendations that would significantly advance our substantive and theoretical understanding of electoral politics, that would be feasible to implement, and that would win the endorsement of collaborators around the world.
By the end of the first day of discussion, we reached consensus on the priorities and concepts that should be at the heart of the collaboration (these are spelled out in more detail below). On the second day, we divided ourselves into subcommittees to work on the various planning tasks. Bajarunieni, Curtice, Holmberg, Lagos, and Nishizawa were responsible for crafting the initial draft of the questionnaire module. Responsibility for formulating the initial recommendations on the background (demographic) data were taken up by Cox, Diez Nicolas, Hernandez, Klingemann, Miranda, Mochmann, Schmitt, and Toka. Cox, Hernandez, Klingemann, Miranda, Schmitt, Thomassen,
Shively, and Toka worked as a subcommittee to delineate the initial recommendations on the macro-level data that should be collected while Diez Nicolas, Mochmann, Rockwell, and Rosenstone drafted recommendations on the archiving and dissemination of the data. Cox, Klingemann, Rockwell, Rosenstone, Thomassen, Shively, and Toka formulated the initial recommendations on aspired to standards for data quality and comparability. On the third day, the entire Planning Committee reconvened to discuss in detail each subcommittee report. Following that discussion, each report was rewritten to reflect the consensus. The Secretariat assembled an initial draft of the current document which the Planning Committee reviewed. Proposed changes where discussed though an e-mail conference and by fax. The Planning Committee unanimously endorses the recommendations that follow.
2. An Overview of the Organizational Structure of the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems
The Planning Committee took as its mandate the principles, processes, and standards that colleagues had adapted at the Berlin Planning meeting.
Study Design: The Comparative Study of Electoral Systems will focus on the nature of electoral choice in democratic polities (consolidated democracies, those undergoing democratic transitions, and those recovering from democratic breakdown). Beginning in 1996, collaborators will include in their national election studies a module of common questionnaire content. The module will contain about 20 questions (running about 10 minutes in length) and will be asked in its entirety in a post-election survey. Collaborators will also provide data on a set of background (demographic) characteristics of respondents, coded to agreed upon standards. Collaborators will aspire to a set of scientific standards concerning sample quality, study administration, and data quality.
Study Planning: All collaborators will participate broadly in setting the study's substantive agenda, in specifying the questionnaire module, and in specifying the demographic and macro-level data to be collected. The Planning Committee has drawn upon the advice offered by colleagues who commented on the initial Stimulus Paper and on the report on the Berlin Conference. The current report is being circulated to all collaborators for comment and discussion. All collaborators are invited to participate in a second Planning Conference to help further refine the Planning Committee's recommendations. (See section 11, below.)
Pilot Work: In the summer of 1995, pilot studies will be conducted in a diverse set of polities to test the module of survey questions. The Planning Committee will analyze the pilot data during the fall of 1995 with an eye to formulating recommendations for revisions to the questionnaire module. These recommendations will be circulated to all collaborators so that by January 1996 consensus can be reached on the final version of the questionnaire module.
Data Collection: In each democracy, between 1996 and 1999 indigenous teams of researchers will conduct a national election survey that includes a common module of questions and demographic variables. Each team will be responsible for securing funding to finance their national data collection, though the Planning Committee will make efforts to identify sources of support that may subvent the costs of individual or multiple data collections. Teams of researchers will collect macro-level data, though some additional macro-data will be collected by collaborators in each country. Some of these data will be centrally collected by separate teams of researchers working cross-nationally.
Data Archiving and Dissemination: Each collaborator will deposit his data and accompanying documentation in a central archive in a timely fashion. Micro- and macro-level data from all polities will be merged into a single, cross-national data set. Data will be placed in the public domain as quickly as possible.
The Future: Planning for the next round of collaboration will begin in 1997. The second and subsequent rounds may focus on a subset of the themes covered in the first collaboration, or may turn to a new set of themes.
3. Theoretical and Substantive Focus Principles Guiding our Recommendations
With these principles in mind, we recommend that the initial round of collaboration in the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems focus on three general themes: the impact of electoral institutions on citizens political cognition and behavior (parliamentary versus presidential systems of government; the electoral rules that govern the casting and counting of ballots; and political parties); the nature of political and social cleavages and alignments; and the evaluation of democratic institutions and processes.
The Impact of Electoral Institutions
If elections are central to democracy, then how should a society organize the institutions that govern the processes by which government leaders are selected? The possibilities are legion. Should there be a parliament or a president and a legislature? Should legislative seats be allocated in proportion to the popular vote, or should the winner in each district take all? Should there be two, or three or a dozen political parties? Should the parties be strong or weak, centralized or decentralized, ideologically unified or diverse?
These are not merely abstract considerations that busy social scientists as they ponder the meaning of democracy. They are the pragmatic issues that policy makers, constitutional experts, and the founders of democratic systems have debated, increasingly so over the last two decades, as new democracies have emerged in southern and eastern Europe, in Latin America, East Asia, and Africa. Such debates are heated because the political stakes could not be higher: institutional arrangements influence the distribution of power; shape the ways that politicians pursue their goals; and constrain the ability of citizens to control their government.
How the institutional arrangements that govern elections affect voters in a particular polity can only be appreciated through comparative research. Without variation in institutional arrangements, it is impossible to learn how any particular configuration of institutions structures votes, public opinion, and political participation. We need to examine how otherwise comparable citizens behave when operating under different institutional constraints -- and this requires that we move beyond a single nation's borders.
Parliamentarism vs. Presidentialism
Parliamentary and presidential government are the two principal models by which democracies are organized. And although the debate between parliamentarism and presidentialism is a familiar one (see for example, Linz 1990; Lijphart 1992; Mainwaring 1990; Shugart and Carey 1992; Powell 1989), many of the arguments central to this debate entail assumptions about voters: about the information that they possess, the beliefs they hold, and the considerations they bring to bear on the electoral choices they make. Such assumptions, are rarely tested.
For example, if accountability makes retrospective sanctions of the executive more available in presidential than in parliamentary systems, then one should find that voters in presidential systems have greater clarity about the performance of the incumbent government and are more willing to rely on retrospective evaluations in their vote choice.
Or, to take another example, consider the charge that divided control of government obscures accountability in presidential systems. Nowhere has this claim been confronted with evidence. Do citizens living under divided government have more difficulty figuring out who is to blame than citizens living under united presidential government or parliamentary rule? Under divided control are voters less likely to rely on retrospective evaluations of the performance of the executive when casting their ballots? We simply don't know.
Do coalition governments obscure accountability and reduce the ability of the electorate to assign blame (Austen-Smith and Banks 1988, 1990; Laver and Shepsle 1990; Strom 1990)? How does a party's participation in a coalition government affect the public's evaluation of the party? Do all parties in the coalition get held equally accountable or does the size of the party or its role (share of portfolios) affect the extent of blame or credit? And, does a change in the composition of a parliamentary government during the period between elections make it more difficult for voters to know whom to blame on election day? We do not know.
Nor do we know whether accountability is undermined in presidential systems because voters give too much weight to the personal attributes of presidential candidates and too little weight to issues. Does the evidence sustain this familiar critique of presidential elections? Do the personal characteristics of party leaders play a less dominant role in parliamentary systems or do some parliamentary systems like a German type Kanzelar-democracy display effects similar to those found in presidential systems (Lijphart 1992)?
The Political Consequences of Electoral Laws
Electoral laws determine how citizens cast votes, how votes are aggregated, and how aggregated votes are converted into positions of governmental authority. Electoral systems differ in the formula used to decide how votes are translated into legislative seats, in district magnitude and threshold, in ballot structure, and in the timing of elections. Such laws constitute a second set of institutional arrangements for cross-national study.
Although we know that electoral laws have profound effects on the number, size, and ideological diversity of parties, on the way in which votes are get converted into legislative seats, and on the strategies that political parties pursue,3 we do not possess, as Michael Steed (1985) has argued, knowledge of the ways in which electoral laws ultimately affect voters and their representation in government.
For example, which electoral arrangements facilitate the close connection between individuals and their representatives and which do not (Bogdanor 1985)? Just what are the circumstances under which personal ties between citizens and candidates matter to voters? How do variations in district magnitude, for instance, affect the nature of the interaction between constituents and their representatives? When electoral laws permit representatives in a multi-member district to free ride on constituent services performed by their colleagues, does the propensity to engage in constituency service and develop personal relationships with constituents go down (Cain, Ferejohn and Fiorina 1987)?
Do high district thresholds not only discourage parties from contesting seats, but do they also discourage voters from casting their ballots for small parties that hover perilously close to the threshold? How powerful are Duverger's (1954) "psychological effects" in reducing the tendency for voters to waste their vote on smaller parties that have no chance of winning seats? Is the effect really a psychological one, as Duverger posited, or does it stem from the unwillingness of parties to invest scarce resources in those districts where things seem hopeless? Although it is well understood that different voting rules offer different opportunities and incentives for strategic voting (Cain 1978; Niemi, Whitten and Franklin 1992; Black 1978; Johnston, et al. 1992) it is not at all clear whether the propensity of citizens to engage in strategic behavior varies with the occasions that electoral rules present.
These questions, which are fundamental to our understanding of the political consequences of electoral laws, deal with the impact of these laws on individual citizens: on the ways they make choices and on the relationship they establish with their representatives. They are questions that as yet have no firm answers.
Democracy, E. E. Schattschneider argued, is "unthinkable save in terms of the parties" (1942). Modern democratic theorists of all stripes embrace parties as institutions that organize electoral competition, aggregate disparate social interests, mediate social conflict, increase voter rationality, enlarge the electorate through mobilization, link people to their government, and constrain those in positions of power.4 In emerging democracies, it is the political parties that play an instrumental role in consolidating the new regimes (Mainwaring 1988; Dix 1992).
But how well do political parties actually perform these functions? Electoral systems differ in conspicuous ways with respect to parties: in their number, ideological distinctiveness, and their organizational strength. Our concern is with understanding how such differences affect electoral choice and party performance.
We know much about how electoral arrangements affect the electoral styles of political parties (e.g. Katz 1980), but very little about the impact of different party systems on beliefs and behavior of ordinary people. For example, whether two-party or multi-party systems best facilitate democracy depends on how citizens think, what they know, and how they choose. Do citizens in fact have more trouble assigning blame under a multi-party than two-party system, making accountability lower?
How does voter choice differ between two-party and multi-party systems? Do two parties really simplify the voter's task, and do many parties make things more confusing? In multi-party systems is a citizen better able to find a party that approximates her ideal point (Huber 1993; Strom 1990)? When parties stake out ideologically distinct positions on salient issues, do citizens have an easier time perceiving where the parties stand than when party positions are muddled? As the ideological distinctiveness of parties grows, is there a parallel increase in the intensity with which mass publics hold their opinions, in the ideological coherence that underlies those opinions, or in the impact of issues on vote choice?
Does strategic voting mitigate the representational benefits claimed for multi-party systems? Under what circumstances will voters decide to throw their support to a larger party that has a chance of winning a seat? What is the impact on ordinary citizens of the parties acting strategically by entering into alliances with other parties through joints lists, list alliances, or through legislative or portfolio coalition? Do voters get confused about the position of the various parties in the coalition? Does party attachment and loyalty go down?
Parties can also be thought of as organizations, and as such, they differ enormously in structure and strength (Katz 1980; Mayhew 1986; Mainwaring 1988; McDonald and Ruhl 1989; Dix 1992; Janda 1993). In some systems, parties are strong: they control resources and nominations; there are local, regional, and national organizations; there is formal party membership; local party organizations play an important role in the social life of citizens (Michels 1962; Duverger 1954; Gosnell 1968; Banfield and Wilson 1963; Wilson 1962, 1973). In other systems political parties are relatively weak (Mayhew 1986).
In recent decades, parties have declined as other institutions have taken over many of their traditional functions (Ware 1985; Flanagan and Dalton 1984). Interest groups press citizen concerns outside of party channels; the mass media inform and mobilize (Ranney 1983; Semetko, et al. 1991); party leaders have lost their grip over the slating of candidates (Katz 1986); centralized, capital intensive, professional campaign organizations have replaced decentralized, labor intensive, grassroots political organizations.
Does it matter whether parties are weak or strong? Do strong parties do a better job of educating the electorate and structuring their political outlooks than do weak parties (Kleppner 1982; McGerr 1986)? Are citizens more attached or more loyal to strong parties than to weak ones? What types of party organizations are most effective at mobilizing citizens to action and what impact does party mobilization have on citizens' political beliefs, information about politics, stands on issues, party loyalty and likelihood of participating in politics? Does mobilization have an equalizing effect because it incorporates into electoral coalitions citizens (often the have-nots) who otherwise would not take part in politics (Schattschneider 1942; Key 1949; Dahl 1966)?
The Nature of Political and Social Cleavages and Alignments
Lipset and Rokkan's claim that "the party systems of the 1960s reflect, with few but significant exceptions, the cleavage structures of the 1920s" set in motion a torrent of research. The class, religious, ethnic, linguistic, and regional foundations of party alignments have all been documented, and in the beginning it appeared that in Western democracies, at least, electoral stability prevailed as Lipset and Rokkan (1967) had predicted (Alford 1967; Rose and Urwin 1969, 1970; Lijphart 1979, 1980; and Dix 1989).
Over the last three decades, however, electoral alignments have weakened, party strength has grown increasingly volatile, and party systems have become increasingly fragmented.5 In Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, and Britain, for example, voters have thrown new electoral support to parties based upon linguistic and ethnic cleavages long thought to have been depoliticized. Elsewhere new parties have championed causes that cut across existing party lines: constitutional reform for Dutch Democrats, traditional morality for new Christian Democratic parties in some Scandinavian countries, tax reductions for Glistrup's party in Denmark, and civil liberties for the Italian Radicals. Electoral support for parties of the left has declined across Europe. Ecological or "green" parties have placed environmental issues on the political agenda, slowly increasing year to year their share of the popular vote (Franklin, Mackie, and Valen 1992). These developments have not only transformed the nature of their party systems, they have called into question the relevance of the social cleavages that had once prevailed. What is needed, is a genuinely comparative cross-national study that assesses the current state of alignments and cleavages in the face of all this social change (see Franklin, Mackie, and Valen 1992).
What is also needed is an assessment of the impact that institutional differences across political systems have on cleavages and alignments. How do institutional structures affect the nature and intensity of social and political cleavages? Do federal systems suppress social cleavages as Chhibber and Petrocik (1989) have suggested? How well do different party systems "encapsulate conflict" by constraining social divisions (Bartolini and Mair 1990)? Do plurality systems produce more broadly based parties that discourage the kind of sectional and ideological parties (and hence intense political cleavages) that can more easily survive under proportional representation? While much is known about the relationship between short-term economic changes and electoral choice within individual countries, 6we know little if anything about how different electoral systems condition the likelihood that political parties will exploit or ameliorate the political conflict that emerges from moments of profound economic change. The Comparative Study of Electoral Systems is uniquely poised to shed light on all of these issues.
The Evaluation of Democratic Institutions and Processes
The Comparative Study of Electoral Systems is also well positioned to advance our understanding of the ways in which citizens assess their polity's democratic institutions and processes. Given the project's general concern with electoral choice and participation, it makes sense to focus on evaluations of the electoral process and on perceptions of the performance of political parties and representatives as institutions that link citizens to government. There are several opportunities here:
First, is the opportunity to monitor and understand the nature and evolution of citizen evaluation of democratic institutions. The CSES study design provides several, powerful analytical strategies. Evaluations found in consolidated democracies can be compared to those that exist in regimes undergoing democratic transition. Regimes at various stages along the road to democratization consolidation can also be compared. And to the extent that our initial collaboration represents the first round of an ongoing collaborative effort, changes in the evaluations of democratic institutions and processes can be monitored over time. In doing so, we will also be able to assess whether support for democratic institutions is maintained through periods of intense political or economic conflict, economic reform, economic disruption, political scandal, and crisis.
We are also in a position to assess how differences in the institutional arrangements that govern the electoral process affect the way that citizens' evaluate democracy. What impact, if any, do institutional differences -- in electoral laws, in the nature of political parties, or in the structure and longevity of the political regime -- have on the way that citizens assess the performance of the electoral process, political parties, and democracy as a whole? Do some kinds of institutional arrangements produce more positive evaluations than others? For example, does citizen satisfaction with the performance of political parties increase with the number and ideological diversity of the political choices that citizens are offered?
Another line of inquiry focuses on the widely held belief that democracies are sustained by political cultures in which there is widespread approval of the fundamental institutions and process of democratic government. By aggregating citizens' evaluations of democracy and monitoring those evaluations over time, we will be in a position to assess whether democratic institutions do indeed crumble following the withdrawal of public support (Almond and Verba 1963; Easton 1965; Inglehart 1988, 1990; Muller and Seligson 1994). Just how vital is support of democratic institutions to the survival of democracy?
We are also concerned about how the opinions that citizens hold about the performance of democratic institutions and processes may influence behavior under a given set of electoral arrangements. For example, compared with the single member district plurality system, a national party list system offers citizens the opportunity to vote for the party rather than on the basis of local issues or the characteristics of individual candidates. Whether citizens do so or not, however, may depend on their perceptions of the effectiveness of political parties, or of the extent to which parties are willing and able to service the needs of their constituents.
Finally, evaluations of the functioning of the political system are also thought to affect both the willingness of citizens to participate in the electoral process and the kinds of parties and candidates they are willing to endorse. The core hypothesis is that disaffected citizens either abstain (or invalidate their vote where voting is compulsory) or vote for "anti-system" parties or candidates. The cross-national data that will be collected in the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems will enhance our ability to address these claims.
4. Questionnaire Module
The constraint of a 10-minute (20-question) module presented a formidable challenge. We spent an entire day discussing the concepts that should be given highest priority in the questionnaire. Each concept regarded as central to the study, is represented by at least one question. When it made sense to do so, we adopted question formats employed in existing election studies. But, we did not feel bound to old questions, particularly questions that were developed in one context but do not travel well to other political cultures or settings. We regarded the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems as an opportunity to make a fresh start -- to write questions de novo and to modify old questions as needed.
The proposed questionnaire module needs to be subjected to careful pilot work to establish the performance and efficacy of each item across a variety of political settings. (This pilot work is described in section 10 below.) The results of this pilot work will be used to suggest how items should be modified or whether they should be deleted.
Although the Planning Committee worked hard to honor the agreement struck in Berlin regarding the length of the questionnaire module, we suspect that our proposal may require more than 10 minutes of interview time. Collaborators should not only comment on the questions themselves, but on the feasibility of implementing the module.
We have organized the questions by concept, not by the order that they should appear in the module. We will formulate a recommendation on question order at a later date.
The variety of institutional arrangements for voting in different countries makes it impracticable to ascertain turnout and vote choice by means of common questions in each polity. Instead, collaborators are requested to gather data on turnout and vote choice with questions that are most relevant to their countries' institutional setting and that these data be coded to a common set of standards (described in section 5).
Party Identification and Leader Evaluation
The Comparative Study of Electoral Systems provides a powerful opportunity for advancing our understanding of the ways in which differences in the number, ideological distinctiveness, and organizational strength of parties affects the nature of the relationship that develops between citizens and political parties.
A central theme in the literature on electoral politics has been the contrast between voting for the person versus voting on the basis of issues or party. It is often charged that in presidential systems voters give excessive weight to the personal attributes of candidates. To asses this claim requires measures of voters' perceptions of party leaders and candidates. How do citizens evaluate the personal character of leaders and candidates and under what circumstances do these assessments affect vote choice?
Q1. a. Do you feel close to any particular political party?
b. [if yes to a.] Which party is that? [if more than one party mentioned] Which party do you feel closest to?
c. Do you feel very close to this party, somewhat close, or not very close?
d. [if DK/No to a.] Do you feel yourself a little closer to one of the political parties than the others? [if yes] Which party is that?
Q2. I'd like to know what you think some of our political parties. After I read the name of a political party, please rate it on a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 means you strongly dislike that party and 10 means that you strongly like that party. If I come to a party you haven t hear of or you feel you do not know enough about, just say so. The first party is . . .
This question should be asked of all relevant political parties. We recommend a broad, inclusive set of parties.
Q3. And now, using the same scale, I d like to ask you how much you like or dislike some political leaders. Again, if I come to a leader you haven t heard of or you feel you do not know enough about, just say so. The first political leader is . . .
This question should be asked for at least one leader per party and, where applicable, all relevant presidential candidates.
Q4. Do you happen to remember the name of any candidates who (ran / stood) in your (Lower house primary electoral district, e.g. constituency, district, riding) in the last (parliamentary / congressional) election? [If name not volunteered] What were their names?
Spatial Issue Voting: Left-Right Scale
To understand how electoral arrangements, the number of political parties, and their ideological distinctiveness affect the ease with which voters can identify the positions of parties and locate a choice close to their ideal point, requires that we measure both the voters' issue positions and their perceptions of the parties' positions as well. Such information will also make it possible to identify the political circumstances that prompt voters to act sincerely, to act strategically, to act out of ignorance, or to ignore policy and idealogy altogether.
Q5. In politics people sometimes talk of left and right. Where would you place yourself on a scale from 0 to 10 where 0 means the left and 10 means the right? Using the same scale, where would you place the [party a]? [party b]? [party c]? . . .
Q6. And using the same scale, where 0 means the left and 10 means the right, where would you place [political leader / presidential candidate a]? [political leader / presidential candidate b]? [political leader / presidential candidate c]? . .
The question should be asked of one leader/candidate for each party included in Q5. Preferably, the list of parties and leaders asked about in Q5 and Q6 should include the parties and leaders asked about in Q2 and Q3.
Given the large number of political parties in some of the countries collaborating in the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems, the Planning Committee thought it was prudent to recommend that respondents place themselves, the parties, and party leaders on only a single dimension. We considered and rejected the use of a substantive dimension (such as economic planning or nationalism) in favor of the more abstract left-right scale. We were unable to identify a single substantive dimension that would be comparable and relevant across polities. Instead, we opted for the left-right scale that is likely to absorb into its connotations the central (though not ethnic) political divide that is manifest in national politics (e.g. equality vs. free market, postcommunist vs. anticommunist, clerical vs. secular). This scale has been successfully implemented in election studies conducted in over 20 polities.
Retrospective Evaluation of Performance of National Economy
Elections are opportunities for citizens to endorse or repudiate the performance of the incumbent government. Measures of citizens' retrospective evaluations of the government performance will enable us to assess how electoral institutions, divided control of government, and minority governments affect the capacity of citizens to sort out who is to blame and to translate that blame into sanctions at election time. Retrospective evaluations of economic conditions also clearly affect electoral outcomes. The Comparative Study of Electoral Systems will provide an opportunity for social scientists to assess the political circumstances under which these retrospective evaluations matter most.
Q7. What do you think about the state of the economy these days in [country]? Would you say that the state of the economy is very good, good, neither good nor bad, bad, or very bad?
Q8. Would you say that over the past twelve months the state of the economy in [country] has got better, stayed about the same, or got worse? [If better or worse] Is that much better or somewhat better? Is that much worse or somewhat worse?
Knowledge / Information about Politics
A measure of general knowledge of politics is important not because of its effect on vote choice, but in the way it interacts with many other variables. It is often argued that level of political information influences how people evaluate democracy and how they vote. The following two items, along with Q4 on candidate recognition, and attention to "don't know" responses to other questions asked in the module should produce a reliable measure of general political knowledge.
Q9. Could you tell me who was (Prime Minister/President) at the time of the election?
Q10. Could you tell me who was the Finance Minister at the time of the election?
Questions 9 and 10 should be coded: correct / incorrect / fails to give an answer.
Interaction with Government and Representatives
Election studies are motivated, in part, by an interest in the degree of communication and control that citizens exert over the leaders they elect. One line of research has examined the nature of the personal relationship that gets established between citizens and their representatives in the national legislature / parliament. The following question (along with Q4 on candidate recognition) should help us sort out how the electoral arrangements that govern the conduct of legislative / parliamentary elections affect the nature of the interaction between citizens and their representatives.
Q11. Have you had any contact with (a Member of Parliament / Member of Congress) during the past twelve months?
Evaluation of Democratic Institutions and Process
We also need to examine how citizens evaluate democratic institutions and processes. The concern here is two-fold: First, provide data that will illuminate the impact of institutional arrangements, regime type, and the nature of political and economic conflict on the ways in which citizens evaluate democracy. Second, identify what impact, if any, those evaluations have on electoral participation, vote choice, and regime stability. These concerns, alone, could sustain an ambitious program of research. Given the constraints of the questionnaire module, we propose that we focus on two sets of evaluations.
Evaluations of the electoral process: whether it is open, fair, and whether voting and election outcomes matter.
Q12. When people are asked to express an opinion, do you believe most people in [country] usually say what they think about politics or do you believe most people usually hide what they really think about politics?
Q13. Do you think that on the whole the last election was a fair one, or did some parties or candidates have an unfair advantage?
Q14. Some people say that no matter how they vote, it won't make things any better in the future. Others say that the way they vote could make things better in the future. What is your view?
Evaluations of the responsiveness of representatives, the performance of political parties, and of democracy in general.
Q15. Some people say it's important who is in power because it can make a difference to what happens. Others say it doesn't really matter who is in power, because in the end things go on much the same. What is your view?
Q16. Some people say that members of (Congress / Parliament) have a good idea of what ordinary people think. Others think that members of (Congress / Parliament) don't know much about what ordinary people think. What is your view?
Q17. Some people say that parties in [country] care what people want. Others say that parties in [country] don't care what people want. What is your view?
Q18. Some people say that political parties are necessary to make our political system work in [country]. Others think that political parties are not needed in [country]. What is your view?
Q19. In general do you think political parties are doing a very good job, a good job, neither a good nor a bad job, a bad job or a very bad job for the people of [country]?
Q20. On the whole, are you satisfied, fairly satisfied, not very satisfied, or not at all satisfied with the way democracy works in [country]?
We recommend that questions 12 through 18 be piloted as five-point scales, using the alternatives in the questions as endpoints. For example, question 12 would be administered face-to-face as follows:
When people are asked to express an opinion, do you believe most people in [country] usually say what they think about politics, or do you believe most people usually hide what they really think about politics. Please use this scale to give your answer.
When people are asked to express an opinion....
1 2 3 4 5 Most people in [country] Most people in [country] usually say what they usually hide what they think about politics think about politics
5. Voter Turnout and Vote Choice
The variety of institutional arrangements for voting in different polities makes it impracticable that vote choice and turnout can be ascertained by means of a common question in each country. For example, in Great Britain or Canada one can ask which party a respondent voted for. But this makes no sense in countries such as the United States, Russia, Germany or Luxembourg where respondents can vote for more than one party at the same election. In countries that make use of run-off elections, collaborators should provide data on turnout and vote choice for the first ballot. In addition to the first ballot data, individual collaborators may chose to collect survey data for turnout and vote choice for the run-off election. Collaborators are thus requested to derive the following standardized information using questions which are most relevant to their countries' institutional circumstances.
In formulating the question used to ascertain this information, collaborators should try to ask the question in a way that minimizes the over-reporting of voter turnout where this is known to be a problem.
2. Which party the respondent voted for (or the party affiliation of the candidate for whom he/she voted in all relevant national elections [e.g. President, Senate and House in the U.S., or first and second vote in Germany].
Coding conventions to be established. This will include a provision to record separately those voters who disclose that they cast an invalid ballot (null / blank / discarded vote).
The following should be noted:
Coding conventions to be established.
We anticipate that most collaborators will ascertain this information, but recognize that it will not always feasible to do so. Collaborators are asked to include the information where it is available.
In commenting on this Report, we ask collaborators to send us drafts of the questions they plan to ask to elicit turnout, vote choice, and recall of vote choice so we can create and distribute several prototype questions for commonly found institutional settings.
6. Background (Demographic) Variables
Collaborators shall also provide data on background (demographic) characteristics of respondents, coded to be agreed upon set of standards.
We recommend that each collaborator collect and code the following background variables:
Background (Demographic) Variables to be Collected and Coded
exact age coded
99. No answer
Collaborators shall provide documentation indicating how they operationalized secondary education.
4. Marital status
The following question is an example of how collaborator might solicit marital status: "Are you single, married, living together as married, divorced, separated, or widowed?"
5. Union Membership
The following question is an example of how union membership might be solicited: "Are you or anyone else in your household a member of a trade union?"
6. Occupation of Respondent
Coding conventions to employ the two-digit 1988 ISCO / ILO occupation code
For a respondent who is currently working, code current occupation. For a respondent who is retired or not currently working employed, code last occupation.
7. Occupational status and sector of employment of respondent
8. Occupation of spouse/partner
Coding conventions to employ the two-digit 1988 ISCO / ILO occupation code
For spouse/partner who is currently working, code current occupation. For spouse/partner who is retired, code last occupation.
9. Household income
Collaborators should code the household income into quintiles.
We recognize that there is likely to be great variation in the ways that collaborators ask about household income (monthly or yearly, before or after tax, etc.). Cross-national standardization of these data will be achieved by recoding the income variable into quintiles where the cut-off points on the distribution are the quintiles of household income estimated for the national population as a whole. Collaborators should provide documentation that describes their survey question and coding scheme.
The following question is an example of how household income might be solicited in a face-to-face survey: "We also need some information about the income of your household to be able to analyze the results for different types of households. Here is a list of income groups [show card]. Please count the total wages and salaries per month of all members of your household, all pensions and social security benefits, child allowances and any other income. Please give me the letter of the income group your household falls into before tax and other deductions."
10. Number of people in household
exact number of people in household coded
This variable is needed to calibrate household income. The following is one way to gather this information: "How many people live in your household, including yourself, all adults and children?"
11. Religious denomination
A master list of codes for the world s religious denominations will be created. Each collaborator should ask a question that elicits responses that permit coding of all nationally relevant denominations. The following question is an example of one way to solicit religious denomination to which the respondent currently belongs. "Do you consider yourself as belonging to a particular religion? [if yes] Which one?"
12. Religious practice / religiosity
Attendance of religious services
An example of a way to solicit information on attendance of religious services is this question: "Lots of things come up that keep people from attending religious services even if they want to. Thinking about your life these days, do you ever attend religious services, apart from occasional weddings, baptisms, or funerals? [if yes] Do you go to religious services every week, almost every week, once or twice a month, several times a year, once a year, or never? [if every week] Would you say you go to religious services once a week or more often than once a week?"
In polities where the concept of attendance at religious services does not exist for relevant denominations in the society, this question should be complemented -- or substituted -- with a question that measures religiosity. The following question is an example of how such a question might be asked: "Would you say that you are religious, not religious, an agnostic, or an atheist?"
Coding conventions to be established for language usually spoken at home.
14. Region of residence
Coding conventions (not more detailed than the autonomous regions in Spain, or the Laender in Germany) to be established.
15. Race of respondent
Coding conventions to be established.
The following question is an example of how this information is solicited over the telephone in the U.S.: "Would you mind telling me your race? Are your white, black or African American, American Indian, or Asian?" In face-to-face interviews, this variable may be coded from observation.
16. Rural/urban residence
The crucial point of this variable is to identify respondents living in rural areas (as opposed to towns or cities). In face-to-face interviews this may be measured by observation. In other circumstances, the following question might be asked: "Would you say you live in a rural area or village, a small or middle-sized town, a large town or city, or suburb of a large town or city?"
Coding conventions to be established.
7. Macro-Level Data
Principles Concerning the Gathering of Macro-Level Data
The analytical power of the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems depends heavily upon the availability of macro-level data on electoral laws, political parties, and other institutional arrangements.
Macro-Data that Collaborators Should Collect
Klingemann, Rosenstone, Shively, and Toka, on behalf of the Planning Committee, will develop a coding form for individual collaborators to use to provide the macro-level data that will be generated in a decentralized fashion. In addition, should the centralized collection of macro-data described below become infeasible, the Planning Committee will recommend that collaborators provide a modest amount of additional macro-level data.
Macro-Data that will be Gathered Centrally
Every effort is being made to gather, centrally, the remaining macro data:
Professor W. Phillips Shively, on behalf of the Comparative Political Data Board, will seek funding to coordinate the gathering and coding of the macro-economic data and macro-political data on institutional arrangements and electoral results. The Planning Committee of the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems will work closely with Shively to facilitate the work of the Comparative Political Data Board and the work of the Archives. Because the macro-level data do not need to be in hand for several years, there is a reasonable period of time in which to secure funding needed to carry out this data collection.
8. Aspired to Standards for Data Quality and Comparability
We recommend that collaborators in the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems adhere to the following standards of data quality:
The Comparative Study of Electoral Systems is a data collection project that includes an international team of principal investigators and international data archives. The CSES is joining forces with the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) and the Zentralarchiv f r empirische Sozialforschung (ZA) to make the data produced from this project widely available to the social science community.
Institutions Responsible for the Archiving and Disseminating the Data
Collaborators in the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems and the Archives should act in concert to pursue, simultaneously, several funding strategies:
Each collaborator shall deposit in the Archives their micro-level data (the background variables, responses to the core questions, and additional data that might have been collected in their survey) as well as macro-level data that were collected.
Conventions for coding the data: The CSES, in consultation with the Archives, will develop standard conventions by which each collaborator will code the data.
How data and documentation should be deposited: Standards will be established to guide the media, format, and method by which the data will be transmitted to the Archives.
Data Quality: Collaborators are responsible for ensuring that the data provided to the Archives are in accordance with the codebook. (For example, collaborators need to clean the data to remove any wild codes.)
Deadline for Deposit and Dissemination of Data: Data must be deposited in a timely fashion, not to exceed one year after the election date, and in accordance with a set of standards specified by the CSES. The Archives cannot guarantee that data deposited after that date will be included in the integrated data file. The Archives will make the data for a particular country available in a timely fashion, not to exceed two years after the date of the election.
Each investigator will provide documentation for the data following archival standards as well as documentation about the sampling process, response rate, and study implementation. This documentation should be written using the Oxford English language. The CSES, in collaboration with the Archives, will develop a checklist of materials to be included with documentation, including the following information:
10. Pilot Studies
During the summer of 1995, collaborators in Argentina, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Estonia, Germany, Japan, Macedonia, Peru, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and the United States will conduct pilot studies to test the questionnaire module. The pilot studies will be production mode interviews conducted in each polity with (sometimes small) national samples of citizens of voting-age. Responses to the questionnaire module, along with other political and background data, will be coded and circulated among those collaborating in the pilot phase of the project. Juan Diez Nicolas, Oscar Hernandez, Marta Lagos, Yoshitaka Nishizawa, and Steven Rosenstone will coordinate the pilot studies and the analysis of the pilot data and will prepare a report summarizing the findings.
Following the analysis of the pilot study data, the Planning Committee will formulate recommendations for revisions to the questionnaire module. These recommendations, along with the accompanying pilot study analysis, will be circulated in November 1995 to all collaborators for comment.
We invite colleagues who have not yet expressed an interest in participating in the pilot study to join in the testing of the questionnaire module. For further details, please contact the CSES Secretariat.
Although the recommendations contained in this report represent the Planning Committee s best judgment of how this first round of collaboration on the Comparative Study of Electoral systems should proceed, the principle established in Berlin was that all collaborators should be given ample opportunity to participate broadly in making decisions about each aspect of the project. In this spirit, we envision several rounds of consultation and discussion.
The first round of consultation begins with the circulation of this Report to all collaborators for their review and comment. Collaborators should send (by mail, by fax, or by e-mail) to the CSES Secretariat proposed modifications to the Report. The CSES Secretariat will circulate this correspondence to the full Planning Committee.
Following the analysis of the pilot study data, the Planning Committee will formulate recommendations for revisions to the questionnaire module. These recommendations, along with the accompanying pilot study analysis and the suggestions received from CSES collaborators, will be integrated into a revised report that will be circulated in November 1995 to all collaborators for comment so that final revisions to the questionnaire module (as well as all other aspects of the study plan) can be completed by January 1996.
We also agreed in Berlin that all collaborators should reconvene in the spring of 1995 (before the pilot work) for a second Planning Conference where we would refine and reach consensus on the Planning Committee's recommendations. An alternative that the Planning Committee discussed, is to defer the spring gathering until November 1995 -- that is, until the results from the pilot work are in hand and final details on the background variables and macro-level data have been worked out. A November 1995 meeting might better serve as an occasion for all collaborators to review the final version of the proposed questionnaire module as well as other aspects of the study plan. The Planning Committee is polling all CSES collaborators to see which date is preferable.
Although our energy has been directed to working out all the details needed to launch this first round of collaboration that will be in place for national elections held between 1996 and 1999, the next step is to begin to think about the long-term intellectual agenda and structure of the project. Our sense is that soon after the field work for this initial cooperative effort is underway, we should initiate discussion about the second and subsequent rounds of collaboration. As we discussed in Berlin, the next round might focus on a subset of the themes covered in the first collaboration, or might well focus on an entirely different set of themes. We may want to think of the 1997 International Political Science Association (IPSA) Meetings as the occasion to hold a plenary session at which all collaborators could join in the discussion of these issues.
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