Catalan Election Survey

In the context of the historic election that will be held on December 21st in Catalonia, Making Electoral Democracy Work (MEDW) has decided to run a pre-electoral survey. The survey is being run by Eric Guntermann, André Blais (Université de Montréal), Ignacio Lago (Universitat Pompeu Fabra), and Marc Guinjoan (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona). It will interview 1500 respondents online in the week preceding the election.

The survey will consist notably of questions on vote choice, on attitudes related to Catalan independence, and on evaluations of the actions taken by both the Catalan and Spanish governments.

The objective of the survey is to explain vote choice and attitudes related to independence. Consequently, MEDW researchers will not release any results prior to the close of polls on December 21st. Shortly after the election, a short report with the main findings will be posted on the project’s blog and sent to the media.

Questions about the survey should be addressed to the MEDW research coordinator at
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Party influence where predispositions are strong and party identification is weak: Assessing citizens’ reactions to party cues on regional nationalism in Spain

By Eric Guntermann, Postdoctoral researcher at the Research Chair in Electoral Studies and research coordinator for Making Electoral Democracy Work


Do parties influence opinions on nationalism in Spain?

Numerous studies have shown that parties influence opinions, especially in the US (e.g. Cohen, 2003; Druckman et al., 2013; Kam, 2005). It is unclear, however, whether such influence occurs in other contexts where party identification is less common and where multi-party systems are the norm. Moreover, it is not clear what kinds of issue opinions parties can influence. The existing literature suggests that opinions that are rooted in predispositions are resistant to party influence (Tesler, 2015).

In this recent publication, I show that parties influence opinions on regional nationalism in Spain, even though most people lack a party identification there and even though nationalism is rooted in identity. I argue that, when confronted by conflict between a party they like and a party they dislike, citizens adopt the position of the side they prefer regardless of whether they identify with it. Moreover, parties can influence opinions on nationalism, because many people in nationalist contexts have ambivalent identities, both with the region and with the country.

Study 1: Laboratory experiment in Catalonia

In May 2016, I recruited 113 participants for a lab experiment in Barcelona. I presented each participant two positions their preferred party has that they do not share as well as the contrasting positions of a party they dislike. While participants in the control group simply read statements that were attributed to “some politicians”, those in the treatment group were clearly associated with the relevant parties. As the figure shows, I found that those in the treatment group became more than one point (on a scale from 0 to 10) more supportive of their party’s position than those in the control group. However, they did not change their ratings of either their preferred or disliked parties.


Figure: Changes in issue opinions and in evaluations of preferred and disliked parties


Study 2: Survey experiment in Galicia

A few weeks later, I recruited a representative sample of 600 respondents in Galicia. I showed them party positions on two issues: whether Galicia is a nation and whether Galicia has a right to self-determination. The order of these issues was randomized across respondents. On the first issue, participants read their preferred party’s position. On the second issue respondents read about, they saw that position along with the contrasting position of a party they dislike. As in Study 1, respondents in the control group read positions that were attributed to anonymous politicians, while those in the treatment group read statements that were clearly associated with parties.


I found that the treatment-group respondents reported opinions that were closer to their preferred party’s position on the second issue on which they read contrasting cues. Cues from a preferred party alone only influenced opinions among participants who identified with that party. Influence was strongest on the issue of whether Galicia is a nation and among participants who identify with both Galicia and Spain.


In short, party influence extends to opinions on an issue that is rooted in identities despite the weakness of party identification.


For more details, see Eric Guntermann. Party influence where predispositions are strong and party identification is weak: Assessing citizens’ reactions to party cues on regional nationalism in Spain. Party Politics. DOI:

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When David and Goliath campaign online: the effects of digital media use during electoral campaigns on vote for small parties

What is the story?

A growing literature examines the effects of digital media on the fortunes of challenger parties. Challengers might have an advantage online given that digital technologies are making small contenders more visible compared to big ones. Moreover, the plurality of new media will cater to niche audiences, undermining the appeal of mainstream parties.  Most of this literature, however, focuses on party strategies (and is mostly American) and not on vote choice.

In this paper, we ask whether digital media contribute to electoral fragmentation by moving citizens’ vote from mainstream to third parties. We address the causal mechanisms connecting digital media and vote for challenger parties, namely the perceived electoral chances of small parties and, voters’ indecision caused by exposure to online political information. Also, we test the fragmentation potential of the Internet on vote choice using a cross-country study (Making Electoral Democracy Work, 21 elections held in 4 countries). Finally, we measure fragmentation at the individual level, comparing vote intention in pre-electoral surveys with vote reported in post-electoral surveys.

Figure 1: Causal schema. Direct and direct effects of digital media use during electoral campaigns on voting for “big” and “small” parties


Figure 2. Distribution of the dependent variable, by country



Results and Conclusions

Only 5% of voters change their initial vote intention from a large party to a small one. While traditional media use during the campaign has a concentration effect, benefitting large parties; online media has a positive effect on both the likelihood of sticking with small parties and, especially, the likelihood of switching to small parties.

We also contend that indecision about one’s vote choice and the perceived chances of small parties will increase with digital media use. This, in turn, positively affects the chances of voting for a small party. We tested a multiple mediation model by means of structural equations. We found that, the more an individual uses the Internet during an electoral campaign, the more uncertain they become about their vote choice, which, ultimately, increases their likelihood of voting for a small party. Nevertheless, the mediating role of the perceived chances of extra parliamentary parties is only marginal, and it works better for the chances to switch in favor of a large party.

Carol Galais and Ana Sofía Cardenal, A. S. (2017). When David and Goliath campaign online: the effects of digital media use during electoral campaigns on vote for small partiesJournal of Information Technology & Politics

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What Do Political Scientists Know About Electoral Reform that Practitioners Do Not? A View from Europe and Canada

Camille Bedock (University of Brussels), Damien Bol (King’s College London), Thomas Ehrhard (University of Paris II)


What is the story?

When politicians or public officials consider changing the electoral system, they often seek advice from political scientists. The APSA Task Force on Political Science, Electoral Rules and Democratic Governance conducted a survey on the topic. In their follow-up report, the authors note that more than 50 US-based political scientists have been involved in electoral reform processes since 2000.

In a symposium recently published in the Election Law Journal, we offer new insights on this topic by offering a view from outside of the US. We invited five political scientists from Europe and Canada who have been involved in electoral reform in their country, and who engaged with politicians, public officials, and the national media on the topic, to answer two related questions: (1) what do political scientists know about electoral reform that practitioners do not?; (2) do they make a difference?



There are 5 contributions to the symposium:

Bedock, Camille, Damien Bol, and Thomas Ehrhard (2017) Political Scientists and Electoral Reforms in Europe and Canada: What They Know, What They Do. Election Law Journal 16(3): 335–340.

In this introduction, we give a brief overview of the literature on the role of political scientists in electoral reform and summarize the main conclusions of the contributions to the symposium. We identify the differences and similarities between countries, and give new comparative insights to the debate regarding the involvement of political scientists in electoral reform.


Renwick, Alan (2017). Electoral Reform: What Do Political Scientists Know That Practitioners Do Not? Lessons from the UK Referendum of 2011. Election Law Journal 16(3): 341-348.

Alan Renwick reports on his experience as one of the main government and media experts in the (unsuccessful) 2011 electoral reform referendum in the United Kingdom. He explains why the common wisdom that practitioners know less about electoral systems than political scientists is largely unfounded. Practitioners have a clear idea about the consequences of electoral laws. Therefore, political scientists should focus on educating the public rather than politicians, and accept to learn from practitioners, as they sometimes know more about electoral systems than they do.


Milner, Henry (2017). Electoral System Reform, the Canadian Experience. Election Law Journal. 16(3): 349-356.

Henry Milner builds upon years of involvement in various electoral reform processes in Canada. He notes that despite the clear preference built over the years by some political scientists in Canada for moving to a mixed-member proportional system, they have not been able to change the system. According to him, political scientists should engage in the strategic dimension of electoral reform, for example, by anticipating the arguments of proponents of the status quo.


Freire, André (2017). Electoral Reform in Portugal: The Role of Political Scientists. Election Law Journal 16(3): 357-366.

André Freire answers the questions of the symposium based on his involvement as the main government expert in an important electoral reform in Portugal in 2009. He argues that the major difference between political scientists and practitioners is not so much their knowledge but the specific partisan interests of the latter. Also, he notes that the involvement of political scientists in electoral reform processes makes them more open and transparent.


Riera Pedro, and José Roman Montero (2017) Attempts to Reform the Electoral System in Spain: The Role of Experts. Election Law Journal 16(3): 367-376.

Pedro Riera and José Ramón Montero report on their involvement in the (failed) electoral reform processes that took place in Spain in 2008 and 2015. They admit, quite honestly, that despite their formal involvement in the process their influence was almost nil. They argue that, in situations where there is a divergence of interests among parties, there is little that political scientists can do to affect the outcome of electoral reform.

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Does Democratic Consolidation Lead to a Decline in Voter Turnout? Global Evidence Since 1939


By Filip Kostelka, Institutions and Political Economy Research Group (IPERG), University of Barcelona & Centre d’études européennes, Sciences Po, Paris


Voting rates in new democracies often decline dramatically. For instance, in less than twenty years after democratization, voter turnout fell by 17.5 percentage points (pp) in Portugal (which has held democratic elections since 1975), 29 pp in El Salvador (1982), 30 pp South Korea (1988), and 47 pp in Romania (1990). Both researchers and journalists usually ascribe these declines to citizens’ disillusionment with the functioning of the new democratic regime and raising apathy in the face of reduced electoral stakes. Democratic consolidation, the process through which democracy becomes established, is believed to depress turnout.

However, this conventional interpretation is problematic. First, it does not explain the striking variation that exists among new democracies. My review of 91 democratic consolidations that took place between 1939 and 2015 shows that, in half of new democracies, turnout declined little or not at all (see Figure 1). For instance, in Spain, which, like neighbouring Portugal, experienced a military dictatorship that lasted several decades before democratizing in the mid-1970s, turnout decreased by only 2.6 pp. This is 7 times less than in Portugal. Second, a number of recent studies, including those employing a pre-/post-election panel design, have found no causal relationship between democratic dissatisfaction and voter turnout.

Figure 1: Voter Turnout Change in the First Six Democratic Elections


In a new study, I offer an alternative explanation of the deep participation declines that sometimes occur in new democracies. I argue that these declines originate in exceptionally high levels of participation at the beginning of the democratic transition, which are provoked by the democratization context. If regime change is a revolution or if citizens are used to voting from the authoritarian era, the democratization context is strongly mobilizing and conducive to electoral participation. In such cases, the voting rate in the founding democratic elections exceeds the “standard” level that would be expected in an established democracy with the same characteristics as the new democracy at hand. Later on, however, as the democratization context loses salience, voter turnout returns to the “standard” level, which is determined by the same factors as in established democracies. Only on face value, it seems that participation is depressed by the democratic consolidation context but, in reality, the dynamic is driven by what happened before the process of consolidation has even started.

To test both the conventional and my alternative accounts, I compiled an original dataset that covers most legislative elections held in new and established democracies between 1939 and 2015. I run two regression analyses. In the first, I test whether, in the first democratic elections, voter turnout reaches higher levels that those that would be expected in established democracies. I find that it is the case and that, as hypothesized, participation is particularly high after bottom-up democratizations, and when the preceding authoritarian regime held elections and forced its citizens to vote in them.

In the second analysis, I model voter turnout dynamics in new democracies. The results reveal that the initial participation surplus, which I call as the democratization bonus, translates into declines. This makes sense of the stark contrast between Portugal and Spain. In Portugal, the democratization process was mainly driven by the democratic opposition, which rendered the Portuguese founding election particularly mobilizing. In Spain, the democratization mover was the authoritarian regime, which limited the euphoria and stakes in the Spanish founding election.

Once this democratization bonus is controlled for, democratic consolidation seems to depress voter turnout only in post-communist democracies. Additionally, like in established democracies, voting rates in new democracies have tended to decrease since the 1970s regardless of the democratization and democratic consolidation contexts.

Altogether, the results untangle the complexity of voter turnout dynamics in new democracies. They show that a single occurrence of a voter turnout decline in new democracies may stem from one to three sources. In combination, the three sources can contribute to particularly sharp drops in electoral participation, such as that observed in Romania. They also explain why we have seen so many dramatic declines since the beginning of the third wave of democratization in 1974: prior to the third wave, opposition-driven democratizations from electorally mobilized dictatorships were rare, no consolidating democracy had to cope with Communist legacies, and the global environment was pushing turnout up in all democracies.

For more details, read Kostelka, Filip. 2017. “Does Democratic Consolidation Lead to a Decline in Voter Turnout? Global Evidence Since 1939.” American Political Science Review. Doi:

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What’s Happening in Catalonia? The Crackdown May Increase Support for an Unpopular Plan

By Eric Guntermann, Université de Montréal

People all over the world this week read about Spanish police arresting Catalan government officials and confiscating ballots for an independence referendum. Rather than harming the Catalan government, however, I argue that the crackdown may help it raise support for its unpopular roadmap towards independence.

In the last regional election, held in 2015, secessionist parties argued that a majority of votes would give them a mandate to make Catalonia an independent state. However, they did less well than expected and needed the radical secessionist Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) to govern. Together they received a majority of seats (53.3%) but not of votes (47.9%).

Nevertheless, they saw the result as a mandate to move unilaterally towards independence. They eventually announced a referendum on independence for October 1, 2017, even though the Spanish government insisted doing so was unconstitutional.

However, the Catalan population has been reluctant to support the regional government’s plan. In a survey Making Electoral Democracy Work (MEDW) ran prior to the Spanish national election held in 2016, only 43.3 % of respondents supported the government’s unilateral independence plan. In fact, more Catalans strongly opposed it (28.0%) than strongly supported it (24.2%). Catalan government surveys also showed that support for independence fell below 40% in 2015.


Parties and Ambivalent Citizens

In a paper that was recently accepted for publication at Party politics, I show that conflict between opposing party positions leads people who prefer one side to the other to adopt that party’s positions as their own. Thus, conflict between regional nationalist parties and the national government led by the People’s Party (PP), which is extremely unpopular in Catalonia, should increase support for the nationalists’ plan.  

In Catalonia, many citizens are ambivalent. In separate questions, the MEDW survey asked Catalans how attached they are to Catalonia and Spain on a scale from 0 to 10. I created a score representing how much more (or less) a respondent identifies with Catalonia than with Spain by subtracting identification with Spain from identification with Catalonia.

I plot the proportions with each value in Figure 1. We can see that overall Catalans identify more with Catalonia than with Spain. The mean value is 1.3. However, many Catalans have ambivalent identities and may be influenced by the PP’s opposition to the Catalan government’s actions.

Figure 1: Relative Identification with Catalonia and Spain



Survey Experiment: Does Opposition from the PP Increase Support for the Catalan Government’s Plans?

An experiment was added to the MEDW survey to see how Catalans respond to PP opposition to the Catalan government’s actions. Half of the 543 respondents were randomly assigned to a control group that read a statement that the “Catalan Government has decided to take steps towards the independence of Catalonia without an agreement with the Spanish Government”. The other half were assigned to a treatment group that read the same statement followed by “the Partido Popular (PP) opposes this decision”.

Respondents in both groups were asked whether they support or oppose the Catalan government’s actions. I focus on the half of Catalans with the most ambivalent identities, who, as argued above, are the most susceptible to being influenced by the PP’s opposition.

Figure 2 shows the responses among these participants. In the control group, 60.0% oppose the plan, while 27.09% support it. In the treatment group, opposition drops to 53.8% and support rises to 33.8%.

Figure 2: Effect of PP Opposition on Support for Unilateral Steps Towards Independence (Ambivalent Identifiers)


To test for significance, I created a numeric version of the support variable (coded from 1 to 4, where higher numbers indicate greater support for unilateral independence). The difference between the two groups is 0.32 (p<0.05). Thus, ambivalent respondents who read about the PP’s opposition to unilateral independence were significantly more supportive of the Catalan government’s plan than those who did not read about that opposition.

Given that a simple statement that the PP opposes the secessionists’ plan influences support for it, it is likely that the powerful assertion of the PP’s opposition we saw this week will have a much stronger effect.


For the article referenced above, see Guntermann, Eric (2017). “Party influence where predispositions are strong and party identification is weak: Assessing citizens’ reactions to party cues on regional nationalism in Spain” Party Politics,

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Was my decision to vote (or abstain) the right one?

By André Blais, Fernando Feitosa and Semra Sevi, Université de Montréal 

How do individuals, after the election, evaluate their decision to vote or abstain? This is the question our study examines in our recent publication in Party Politics.  

Respondents were asked, right after the election, how satisfied they are with their decision to vote (or not to vote)” We hypothesize that satisfaction (or lack of it) is driven primarily by voters’ motivation to vote. The study includes interest in politics, a sense of civic duty, and party attachment as motivating factors for voting, and it also examines how the cost of voting and socio-demographic factors affect voters’ satisfaction with their decision to vote or to abstain. Finally, the study examines whether priming voters about the result of the election affects their satisfaction with their decision.

We use an original dataset that is part of the Making Electoral Democracy Work Project, led by André Blais. We analyze a total of 22 surveys conducted in 5 different countries (Canada, France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland) in national, supra-national and sub-national elections held between 2011 and 2015. The surveys ask respondents, after the election, to indicate whether they think that their decision to vote (or abstain) was a very good decision, a fairly good decision, a fairly bad decision, or a very bad decision. Half of the respondents are primed to consider the results of the election (“Given the outcome…”) before indicating their level of satisfaction.

Our study tests the four following hypotheses:

  • The stronger the motivation to vote, the more satisfied (dissatisfied) one is with her decision to vote (abstain).
  • The higher the cost of voting, the less (more) satisfied one is with her decision to vote (abstain).
  • Men, older and better educated citizens are more satisfied with their decision to vote or abstain.
  • Priming ‘given the outcome’ decreases (increases) satisfaction among voters (abstainers).

We find that an overwhelming majority of those who voted in an election feel, ex post, that they made the right decision, while non-voters are less certain about the correctness of their choice to abstain. Table 1 shows the total distribution of responses to our satisfaction questions. Of those who voted, 71 per cent indicated that they made a very good decision and another 26 per cent said that it was a fairly good decision. An overwhelming majority of voters thus felt very positive about their decision to vote. Things were different among abstainers. Only 26 per cent of abstainers qualified their choice as a very good one, while as many as 40 per cent acknowledged that it was a very or fairly bad decision not to vote. Abstainers are thus much more critical of their choice than voters.


Table 1: Distribution of responses (in %) to satisfaction with decision to vote/abstain


to vote



to abstain


Very bad decision 1 15
Fairly bad decision 2 25
Fairly good decision 26 34
Very good decision 71 26
N 17,561 1,891


We also show that each motivating factor (interest in politics, sense of duty, party attachment) has an impact on voter (non-voter) satisfaction with their decision to vote (abstain), confirming H1. The findings present only partial support for H2, and suggest that motivational factors trump cost considerations in voters’ judgments. The data agree fully with the predictions of H3 for age, but only partially for gender and education. Finally, the prime has a substantial marginal impact, decreasing the likelihood of saying that the decision to vote was a very good decision by 10 percentage points. Interestingly, the prime does not have any impact among those who had abstained. 

Our study shows that citizens’ views about the correctness of their decision to vote or abstain depend first and foremost on the strength of their motivation to vote. Those who are highly interested in politics, who believe that they have a moral obligation to vote, and who feel close to a party have no doubt that their decision to vote was the right one while the verdict is much less positive when they failed to vote.


For more details, see Blais, A., Feitosa, F., and Sevi, S. (2017). “Was my decision to vote (or abstain) the right one?” Party Politics,


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MEDW-APSA Mini-Conference on Political Behavior This Friday (September 1st) in San Francisco!

By André Blais (University of Montreal) and Filip Kostelka (University of Montreal; Sciences Po, Paris)


Political scientists from all over the world will present their research this Friday at a mini-conference on political behavior organized by the Making Electoral Democracy Work project in San Francisco. The mini-conference is incorporated in the American Political Science Association (APSA) meeting and takes place at the Westin St. Francis Hotel (California East room) from 8 AM to 5:30 PM.  All participants in the APSA meeting are warmly encouraged to attend the mini-conference. The programme is as follows:

8:00am-9:30am Panel 1: Participation and Partisanship,

Panel Chair: André Blais (University of Montreal)

Panel Discussant: Indridi H. Indridason (UC Riverside)


  1. Elections Activate Partisanship Across Countries

Shane P. Singh (University of Georgia), Judd Thornton (Georgia State University)

  1. Does Too Much Democracy Kills Participation? Election Frequency and Voter Turnout in Canada and Germany

Filip Kostelka (University of Montreal and Sciences Po, Paris), Alexander Wüttke (University of Manheim)

  1. The Correlates of Duty: Universal or Context Specific?

Laura Stephenson (University of Western Ontario)

  1. Looking in a Carnival Mirror: Ideology and Protest Participation in Old and New Democracies

Filip Kostelka (University of Montreal and Sciences Po, Paris), Jan Rovny (Sciences Po, Paris and University of Gothenburg)


09:30am-09:45am Break


09:45am-11:15am Panel 2: French Elections

Panel Chair: Martial Foucault (Sciences Po, Paris)

Panel Discussant: Sylvain Brouard (Sciences Po, Paris)


  1. Aging, habit and turnout. New evidence from 12 voting rounds in France

Jean-Yves Dormagen (Université de Montpellier)

  1. From votes to seats. The 2017 French legislative elections

Annie Laurent (Université de Lille), Bernard Dolez (Université Paris 1)

  1. Performance voting and the selection of alternatives.

Nicolas Sauger (Sciences Po, Paris)

  1. The Wealth Effect on the 2017 French Presidential Outcomes

Martial Foucault (Sciences Po, Paris)


11:15am-11:30am Break


11:30am-1:00pm Panel 3: Public Opinion and Satisfaction with Democracy

Panel Chair: Laura Stephenson (University of Western Ontario)

Panel Discussant: Damien Bol (King’s College London)


  1. Does Ideological Congruence Matter? Assessing Its Impact on Satisfaction with Democracy

Eric Guntermann (University of Gothenburg)

  1. Revisiting the notion of electoral winner

Jean-François Daoust (University of Montreal)

  1. Conventional wisdom or paradigm shift? Getting at the root causes of temporal variability in public opinion towards immigration

Steven Vanhauwaert (Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas), Patrick English (University of Manchester)


1:00pm-2:15pm Lunch Break


14:15pm-3:45pm Panel 4: How do voters decide?

Panel Chair: Filip Kostelka (University of Montreal and Sciences Po, Paris)

Panel Discussant: Ruth Dassonneville (University of Montreal)


  1. How government alternation shapes voter incentives to engage in compensational voting

Carolina Plescia (University of Vienna) and Francesco Zucchini (University of Milan)

  1. What Are the Causes of Voters’ Indecision? A Study of Late Deciders in Western Democraties

Simon Willocq (Université Libre de Bruxelles)

  1. Electoral Accountability in France

Martial Foucault (Sciences Po, Paris), Romain Lachat (Sciences Po, Paris), Guy Whitten (Texas A&M University)


3:45pm-4:00pm Break


4:00pm-5:30pm Panel 5: Study of Elections, Parties and Electoral Rules

Panel Chair: Jan Rovny (Sciences Po, Paris and University of Gothenburg)

Panel Discussant: Shane P. Singh (University of Georgia)


  1. Voting and satisfaction with democracy under proportional representation: Does ballot structure matter?

Damien Bol (King’s College London), André Blais (Université of Motnreal), Lidia Nunez (Université libre de Bruxelles), Jean-Benoit Pilet (Université libre de Bruxelles)

  1. Negative Campaigning in Multi-Party Contests

Charles Crabtree (Pennsylvania State University), Matt Golder (Pennsylvania State University), Thomas Gschwend (University of Manheim) & Indridi H. Indridason (UC Riverside).

    3. The Effects of Survey Mode and Sampling in Belgian Election Studies: A Comparison of a National Probability Face-to-Face Survey and a Non-Probability Internet Survey

Ruth Dassonneville (Université de Montréal), Kris Deschouwer (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) and Marc Hooghe (University of Leuven).


If you have questions about the mini-conference, do not hesitate to contact Filip Kostelka (filip.kostelka@umontreal).


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MEDW Survey Data Now Available in Open Access!

By André Blais (University of Montreal), Laura B. Stephenson (University of Western Ontario), Damien Bol (King’s College London), and Filip Kostelka (University of Montreal) on behalf of the MEDW Team  

The MEDW team is proud to announce that all survey data from the Making Electoral Democracy Work project are now available in open access in the Harvard Dataverse. In total, this represents 32 studies from national, subnational and supranational elections, which were conducted in seven established democracies between 2010 and 2016 (see the list below). The core data module is an aggregated dataset that combines information from 27 surveys fielded in 11 regions from five countries (Canada, France, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland) and that spans over 40 000 respondents. The project dataverse also includes 5 “special datasets” (additional studies conducted in Belgium, France, Germany, Spain and Sweden) that are not incorporated in the aggregated dataset but contain a large number of questions asked in the regular MEDW surveys.

The data are characterized by several unique features that may be of interest to political scientists and students of political behavior, mass political attitudes, and multi-level governance. They notably provide the same kind of information for different levels of government, which allows for cross-level comparison and the study of cross-level interactions. The topics covered by the surveys include satisfaction with democratic and government performance, political efficacy, election importance, perceptions of the voting act, attachment to different levels of government, perceived corruption, value orientations on economic and social issues, closeness to political parties, exposure to campaign information and mobilization efforts, electoral and non-electoral political participation, pre-election voting intentions, and reported vote choice (see the aggregated dataset codebook).  Almost all of the studies are two-wave panels, in which a pre-election questionnaire was administered approximately one week before the election and a post-election questionnaire was launched in the period immediately after the election. While most attitudes were measured in the first wave, electoral participation, vote choice and non-electoral political participation were measured in the second wave. This allows for greater confidence in the direction of causality (i.e., from attitudes to behavior). Last but not least, the questionnaires feature several experimental questions where half of the respondents were asked a different wording of the same question or the same questions in a different order.

The MEDW project dataverse contains the Aggregated Dataset folder and 6 (sub) dataverses with election-specific datasets: “MEDW Canada”, “MEDW France”, “MEDW Germany”, “MEDW Spain”, “MEDW Switzerland” and “MEDW Special Datasets”. All datasets are in Stata (13) format and are supplemented with codebooks, questionnaires (in the original language and / or in English), and technical reports.

For more information, access the project dataverse and do not hesitate to contact André Blais (

 We thank all members of the MEDW team who contributed to the project and to the production of the data. They include Christopher H. Achen, John Aldrich, Christopher Anderson, Vincent Arel-Bundock, David Austen-Smith, Laurie Beaudonnet, Stefanie Beyens, Marian Bohl, Maxime Coulombe, Charles Crabtree, William Cross, Fred Cutler, Jean-François Daoust, Ruth Dassonneville, Kris Deschouwer, Delia Dumitrescu, Jim Engle-Warnick, David Farrell, Fernando Feitosa, Benjamin Ferland, Martial Foucault, Carol Galais, François Gélineau, Elisabeth  Gidengil, Matt Golder, Sona Golder, Thomas Gschwend, Marc Guinjoan, Eric Guntermann, Phillip Harfst, Maxime Héroux-Legault, Rafael Hortala-Vallve, Indridi Indridason, Ekrem Karakoc, Anja Kilibarda, Hanspeter Kriesi, Simon Labbé St-Vincent Simon, Romain Lachat, Ignacio Lago Peñas, Jean-François Laslier, Jean-Michel Lavoie, Andrea Lawlor, Louis Massicotte, Mike Medeiros, Claude Montmarquette, Alexander Morin-Chassé, Ben Nyblade, Scott Pruysers, Paul Quirk, Victoria Savalei, Semra Sevi, Shane Singh, Karine van der Straeten, Katherine Sullivan, Charles Tessier,  Tom Verthé, and Steffen Zittlau.

The 32 MEDW studies were transformed into 23 datasets that are archived in the project dataverse. This is their exhaustive list:

“Making Electoral Democracy Work” [aggregated dataset]

In the (sub)dataverse  “MEDW Canada”:

“MEDW 2011 Ontario Provincial Election Study”

“MEDW 2012 Quebec Provincial Election Study”

“MEDW 2015 Canadian Federal Election Study”


In the (sub)dataverse “MEDW France”:

 “MEDW 2012 French Legislative Election Study”

“MEDW 2014 French Municipal Election Study”

“MEDW 2014 French European Election Study”


In the (sub)dataverse “MEDW Germany”:

“MEDW 2013 Lower Saxony State Election Study”

“MEDW 2013 Lower Saxony Federal Election Study”

“MEDW 2014 Lower Saxony European Election Study”

“MEDW 2013-2014 Bavaria Panel Study”


In the (sub)dataverse  “MEDW Spain”:

“MEDW 2011 Spanish National Election Study”

“MEDW 2012 Catalan Regional Election Study”a

“MEDW 2014 Spanish European Election Study”

“MEDW 2015 Madrid Regional Election Study”


In the (sub)dataverse  “MEDW Switzerland”:

“MEDW 2011 Zurich Cantonal Election Study”

“MEDW 2011 Swiss Federal Election Study”

“MEDW 2011 Lucerne Cantonal Election Study”


In the (sub)dataverse “MEDW Special Datasets”:

“MEDW 2010 North Rhine-Westphalia State Election Study”

“MEDW 2010 Swedish National Election Study”

“MEDW 2012 French Presidential Election Study”

“MEDW 2014 Belgian National Election Study”

“MEDW 2016 Spanish National Election Study”


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Duty to vote and political support in Asia

By Carol Galais, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya & André Blais, Université de Montréal 

What is the story

Although sense of civic duty is a well-known predictor of voting behavior, we do not know much about its foundations.  Hence the question: what are the psychological orientations that predispose citizens to believe that they do (or do not) have a duty to vote?

The moral and communitarian nature of the duty to vote have led several authors to establish links between this belief and attitudes towards democracy and one’s country. We posit that the belief that voting is a duty will be stronger among supporters of democracy and/or of their political community. We also posit that two contextual factors, degree of democracy and ethnic fractionalization, moderate the effect of political support on duty.

We test these expectations by means of two Asian Barometer Surveys conducted in 2004 and 2005, gathering 21 Asian countries, which provide a sufficiently diverse sample in terms of both democracy and heterogeneity.


Figure 1 shows the mean value of duty in each of the 21 countries. These values range from .99 (Bangladesh) to .67 (Turkmenistan). South Asian countries score higher, while East Asian countries (Japan, Korea and Mongolia) come second in line. Southeast and Central (former Soviet Socialist Republics) Asian countries tend to score lower.

Figure 1: Average duty to vote per country.

The estimations presented in Table 1 confirm the relationship between both aspects of political support and the duty to vote; support for one’s political community matters more than support for democracy. Finally, cross-level interactions are significant: the impact of support for democracy on duty is stronger in more democratic countries, and the effect of support for political community is more pronounced in ethnically fractionalized countries.

Table 1: Multilevel estimations of the duty to vote.


The belief that one has a moral obligation to vote stems more from attachment to one’s country than from the belief that democracy is a good thing.
The interaction between support for democracy and duty suggests that, under dictatorship, democracy supporters are more focused on basic rights than on their own duties. It is also possible that citizens develop beliefs about their duties as citizens only once the political system guarantees them political rights.
As for the interaction between fractionalization and duty, this suggests that societies that have overcome their divides can turn diversity into strength, building more encompassing national identities which bolster the civic duty to vote. Those who are proud of their diverse country adhere to the symbols, rules and institutions that keep the country together.

For more details, see: Galais, C., & Blais, A. (2016). “Duty to Vote and Political Support in Asia. International.” Journal of Public Opinion Research,

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