What Kind of Electoral Outcome do People Think is Good for Democracy?

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Jean-Benoit Pilet, in collaboration with André Blais, Damien Bol, Shaun Bowler, David M Farrell, Annika Fredén, Martial Foucault, Emmanuel Heisbourg, Romain Lachat, Ignacio Lago, Peter John Loewen, Miroslav Nemčok, and Carolina Plescia
Sage Journals
Political studies

New paper out in Political Studies.


There is perennial debate in comparative politics about electoral institutions, but what characterizes this debate is the lack of consideration for citizens’ perspective. In this paper, we report the results of an original survey conducted on representative samples in 15 West European countries (N = 15,414). We implemented an original instrument to elicit respondents’ views by asking them to rate “real but blind” electoral outcomes. With this survey instrument, we aimed to elicit principled rather than partisan preferences regarding the kind of electoral outcomes that citizens think is good for democracy. We find that West Europeans do not clearly endorse a majoritarian or proportional vision of democracy. They tend to focus on aspects of the government rather than parliament when they pass a judgment. They want a majority government that has few parties and enjoys wide popular support. Finally, we find only small differences between citizens of different countries.