Political Efficacy and Participation in Twenty-Seven Democracies: How Electoral Systems Shape Political Behaviour
Advocates of proportional representation (PR) often cite its potential for increasing citizen involvement in politics as one of PR's fundamental advantages over plurality or first-past-the-post systems. The assumption is that plurality electoral systems distort the translation of votes into seats, discouraging and alienating small party supporters and other political minorities. In contrast, PR systems are believed to provide greater opportunities for representation which are assumed to instil greater efficacy and increase participation. We examine this theory linking institutions to electoral participation across a diverse set of countries using data from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems. Using a multi-level approach we find evidence consistent with the expectations about the negative influence of disproportional systems on political minorities. Voters are also likely to have stronger partisan preferences in PR systems, which enhances political efficacy and increases voter participation. The effects of PR, however, are not all positive; broad coalitions, which are likely to be a feature of these systems, reduce political efficacy.(Published Online February 8 2008)
a The authors would like to thank Sarah Birch and the Journal's anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments.