Voting Behaviour and the Quality of Governance

This project is an empirical study of the role of institutions and the quality of governance in electoral democracy. The performance of a democratic system depends not only on the type of institutions in the country, but also on the quality of these institutions. I argue that the degree of political representation and accountability, how voters choose their representatives, and their political attitudes are influenced by the institutional set-up and the quality of governance. I do this by examining the role of political institutions and the quality of governance in explaining cross-national variation of feeling of political representation, voting behavior, and welfare attitudes. All of the analyses in this project are cross-national and employ multi-level datasets (e.g. Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES), Eurobarometer and World Value Survey individual level data and different indicators of the quality of governance and political institutions).

After a brief introduction presenting the project’s objectives within the ELECDEM network, I provide a descriptive analysis of the differences in perceptions of representation and accountability among the CSES countries. Previous beliefs that institutional set-ups promote political representation but undermine accountability (and vice-versa) are only partially supported. The third chapter puts the above relationships to the test, and discusses causal mechanisms that may generate relationships between type of democracy and whether ideological proximity or government past performance dominates voting behavior. I find that most of the traits of consensus democracy either do not affect voting behavior or they do it in the opposite direction than theoretically expected.

The second part of the project examines the impact of quality of governance on voting behavior and public attitudes. Chapter four examines whether voters punish the government for bad governance, and discusses why one should expect governments to be held accountable for the quality of governance. I find that, at the aggregate level, the electoral support for the incumbent does not depend on governance performance, but voters factor their satisfaction with public services in their vote decision. Bad governance may not have a direct impact in elections, but as I discuss in chapter five, corruption affects voters’ political trust, and thus has a moderating effect on
predictors of vote choice. I find that corruption undermines the magnitude of party evaluations and ideological proximity, but leaders can compensate for this loss because the trust repair process is easier for an individual actor than a rigid party organization. Before concluding, I show that the quality of governance affects not only individuals’ electoral behavior, but also they attitudes towards social welfare. When institutions perform poorly, people want less redistribution.

Download the full report: WP08_Diana Burlacu_ESR Final Report (PDF 36,918KB)

Further details of workpackage 8.

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