Voter Turnout & Emigration: What Affects Transnational Electoral Participation?

Filip Kostelka, Université de Montréal & Sciences Po, Paris

What is the story?

Migration flows to, but also within, developed democracies have kept intensifying since the end of the Cold War. Consequently, relatively large segments of democratic electorates currently live abroad. This raises the question of emigrants’ engagement in their motherlands’ politics.

In a recent article published in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, I tackle the topic of transnational electoral participation that results from emigration. My objective is to show how transnational voting rates differ from the domestic rates (i.e. the voting rate in the sending country), what specific factors affect emigrants’ turnout, and, more generally, what implications emigration has for nationwide turnout in the sending countries.


The literature on political behaviour mostly focuses on migrants’ electoral participation in the receiving country (i.e. the effect of immigration). In contrast, migrants’ participation in the elections of the sending country (i.e. the effect of emigration) has so far been, to a large extent, an uncharted territory. Drawing on the literature on domestic residential mobility (i.e. mobility within a single country), I expect that:

  1. Transnational voting rates are much lower than domestic ones as emigration increases the costs and reduces the benefits of the voting act.

With regards to the factors that affect transitional voting rates, I hypothesize that:

  1. The less burdensome the procedures for voting abroad, the higher the transnational voting rate.
  1. The larger the size of the diaspora, the higher the transnational voting rate (but the lower the overall voting rate).

This last hypothesis is motivated by the fact that large diasporas mean large pools of potential votes and a stronger motivation for political parties to go campaigning abroad and mobilize emigrants (see this news report covering a spectacular transnational campaign event held in 2007 for Romanians in Spain). At the same time, large diasporas mean a large number of voters for whom voting is costlier and less beneficial when compared to voters who stayed back home. I expect that transnational voting rates will never reach the level of domestic voting rates and, therefore, although a rise in the number of emigrants will lead to higher transnational voting rates, it will however also further reduce the overall (i.e. nationwide) voter turnout.

The empirical case: 10 post-communist democracies 

To test my hypotheses, I study legislative elections in ten Central and East European democracies (CEE-10) between 1990s and 2012. As Figure 1 shows, the number of CEE-10 citizens living abroad strongly increased especially after 2000. Nevertheless, voter registration was automatic and for life in all ten countries (note that this has recently changed in Bulgaria, see p. 6 in this OSCE report). Therefore, emigrants kept the right to vote and were counted in the overall voter turnout rates as long as they maintained the citizenship.

Figure 1 The Evolution of the Number of Emigrants from the CEE-10


My empirical analyses corroborate Hypothesis 1. Transnational voting rates, measured as the number of votes case abroad divided by the number of emigrants, are much lower than domestic voter rates. After 2000, they never exceeded 32.1 % (Slovenia’s legislative election of 2008). This means that the growing emigration depresses the nationwide voting rates in the CEE-10. Actually, in those countries, nationwide voter turnout fell dramatically in the first two democratic decades (by 25.1 percentage points, see also this article). According to my estimates, emigration accounts for almost 10 % of this fall (2.1 pp).

Hypotheses 2 and 3 are also validated. In some of the CEE-10, citizens need to (re)register to vote from abroad. According to my models, which control for domestic turnout and other factors, each extra day that separate the registration deadline from the actual election, reduces transnational turnout by 0.1 percentage points. Conversely, diaspora size exerts the expected positive effect. Every increase in the number of voters abroad (as a percentage of the total electorate), boosts transnational voter turnout by 0.7 percentage points.

Figure 2 Factors Affecting Transnational Voting Rates (regression coefficients)

Factors Affecting Transnational Voting Rates (regression coefficients)


This study demonstrates that emigration is an increasingly salient factor for understanding voter turnout variation over time and across countries. Its findings are not of interest only to researchers who study electoral participation but also to policy-makers in the CEE-10 and elsewhere who are concerned by declining voting rates. Transnational electoral participation by emigrants specifically depends on legal provisions for external voting and diaspora size. The former factor is fully at the reach of legislators.

For more information, see:

Kostelka, Filip (2016). Distant souls: post-communist emigration and voter turnout. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. doi:10.1080/1369183X.2016.1227696



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Putting parties and voters into the lab (at the same time!)

Damien Bol, King’s College London
André Blais, University of Montreal
Simon Labbé St-Vincent, University of Montreal

What is the story?

Lab experiments are increasingly popular to study elections. In a recent book published at Springer, we present the variety of voting experiments, in the lab and on the field, in showing their respective contributions to research in the domain.

In lab experiments, researchers have the possibility to manipulate the factors that may influence the outcome of an election, such as the electoral system, the distribution of preferences or the party platforms. In doing so, they can to isolate the causes of this outcome and the mechanism behind it.

In a recent paper published in Political Science Research and Methods, we report the results of a one-of-a-kind experiment where we put parties and voters into the lab. We hope this will pave the way for new voting experiments that consider how interactions between multiple actors shape the electoral outcome.

A one-of-a-kind experiment

For each experimental session, we organised 4 series of 5 elections between 17 subjects at experimental lab CIRANO in Montreal. We randomly assigned the 17 subjects to a role: 6 were designated as parties and 11 were designated as voters, and to a position on a scale ranging from 0 to 10 (see Table 1 below, parties are represented in letters, voters are represented Roman numbers). The roles and positions were randomly reshuffled after each series of 5 elections.

Table 1: Positions of voters and parties on the 11-point scale

Scale 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Parties A B C D E F

The elections had two stages. First, the parties decided to form an alliance or not with their paired party (the pairs are A/B, C/D and D/E). Then, the voters saw on their screen which parties are participating and had to decide for which party to vote among them.

After the election, the party that received the most votes was declared the winner. If this winning party was not in an alliance with her paired-party, she got 40 points. If there was an alliance the 40 points were divided between the two partners. The distribution of gains between them constitutes an experimental condition. Depending on the series, it is either equal (each party receives 20 points) or unequal (the party that enters the election receives 30 points, while the other receives only 10 points).


One of the advantages of our experiment compared to observational studies is that we know how many parties could have potentially participated in the elections, that is 6 parties. In reality, researchers can hardly determine how many parties envisioned participating in an election before the campaign. We can thus calculate how much the Effective Number of Parties (ENEP) actually observed in our experimental elections deviates from this theoretical maximum, and the part of reduction that is due to parties forming alliances and to voters voting strategically, that is deserting the party closest to their position if this party has no chance of winning.

Table 2 reports these results. It shows that on average voters reduce 38% of the fragmentation they could theoretically by voting strategically, and parties 60% by forming alliances. Also, we observe that the degree of reduction by parties is larger when the distribution of gains within alliances is equal.

Table 2: Degree of ENEP reduction by voters and parties

Gains Equal Gains Unequal Total
Reduction by voters 36% 40% 38%
Reduction by parties 64% 57% 60%
ENEP 3.10 3.18 3.14

Our conclusion is that the contribution made by party strategic exit is greater than that due to strategic voting. We explain this difference by the nature of the coordination problem and the amount of gains at stake (party coordination is much easier to achieve than voter coordination). Also, in our experiment just as in real elections, parties have much more to gain if they win, and have thus more incentives to behave strategically than voters.

For more information, see:

Damien Bol, André Blais, and Simon Labbé St-Vincent (Forthcoming.) Which Matters Most: Party Strategic Exit or Voter Strategic Voting? A Laboratory Experiment. Political Science Research and Methods

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Come for the electoral systems, stay for the debate


by Katherine V. R. Sullivan, Université de Montréal

There has been ongoing talk of a possible electoral system reform in Canada. But what are the various options and what would be their consequences for voters and parties? In order to offer insights on these questions, the Centre for the Study of Democratic Citizenship and the Research Chair in Electoral Studies at the Université de Montréal will be hosting a public forum on electoral reform on October 20th.

This public forum will begin with a presentation by Professor André Blais on the following four voting systems:

First Past the Post (FPTP)

Alternative Vote (AV)

Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP)

Small District Open List Proportional Representation (SOP)

Four political scientists will then be allowed 12 minutes to argue in favour of each of them. This will be followed by an open debate about the pros and cons of these systems before audience members are invited to ask questions – using a mobile platform called Pigeonhole Live – and then vote for their two preferred options.

The forum will take place on October 20, 2016, from 19h30 to 21h30, at the McGill New Residence Hall (3625 Av du Parc, Montréal) and you can register here The forum will be streamed live by CPAC (

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I usually vote but I didn’t vote this time


Alexandre Morin-Chassé, Université de Montréal

Damien Bol, King’s College London

The goal of our research project is to improve the quality of post-election survey data on electoral turnout by reducing abstainers’ tendency to lie. Usually, the turnout reported in post-election surveys is much higher than in reality, and this is partly due to abstainers pretending that they have voted. Why do they lie? In every society, there exist social norms that are widely shared by the population. Also, in many countries, voting at elections is the norm and it is common to speak of voting as a duty to fulfil in order to be a good citizen. Because this norm exists and people are aware of it, some abstainers prefer to lie than to report a behaviour that is perceived as socially irresponsible.

Previous research has shown that some people lie even when they complete an online questionnaire, a context where there is no interaction with the interviewer and no risk of being judged. Another psychological mechanism is at play here: the desire to preserve self-esteem. Some of the abstainers share the social norm that voting is a duty. They lie because they prefer to avoid the discomfort they would feel when admitting that they derogate from a norm they endorse.

One way to reduce the abstainers’ tendency to lie is to frame the turnout question in a way that allows these abstainers to claim that they adhere to the norm even if they did not vote. Abstainers who accept the social norm can save face even if they report their true voting behaviour. To test the efficacy of this framing, it is possible to run a survey experiment during which half of respondents are randomly assigned to the classic “yes/no” turnout question, while the other half is presented with a new question. If the new question shows a reported turnout that is closer to the actual turnout, it is presumed that the new version succeeded in reducing lies and thus produces more accurate survey answers. Various studies conducted in the United States have tested which question best succeeds in reducing abstainers’ tendency to lie. Table 1 presents the “classic” and the “face-saving” turnout question wordings.

Table 1. Question wording

[Comment preamble]

In each election we find that a lot of people were not able to vote because they were not registered, they were sick, or they did not have time.

[Standard yes/no voting question]


Were you personally able to vote in this election?

1. Yes

2. No

9. Don’t know/Prefer not to answer

[Face-saving voting question]


Which of the following statements best describes you?

1. I did not vote in the election

2. I thought about voting this time but didn’t

3. I usually vote but didn’t this time

4. I am sure I voted in the election

9. Don’t know/prefer not to answer

Results from the United States suggest that including face-saving response items in surveys following national elections can reduce reported turnout by a range of 4 to 8 percentage points. However, we do not know whether this new version of the turnout question is also efficient in other countries and whether face-saving response items can also reduce abstainers’ tendency to lie in elections at other levels of government, such as local, regional, or European Elections. Our research aims to fill this gap by analysing 19 surveys experiments in post-election surveys conducted in Canada, France, Spain, Switzerland and Germany for the Making Electoral Democracy Work project.

Figure 1 presents results for each of these 19 survey experiments. The top and the left margins identify the country and the level of the election; the bars represent the difference in percentage points between the turnout measured in the group exposed to the yes/no question and the one measured in the group exposed to the face-saving version.

Figure 1. Treatment effects of the inclusion of face-saving response options on reported turnout


Note: The error spikes represent the 95% and 99% confidence intervals.

In 11 out of 19 surveys, the inclusion of face-saving response items significantly reduced the reported turnout; in 4 other surveys, the effect goes in the expected negative direction, even if it does not reach conventional levels of statistical significance. Finally, in 4 other surveys, the new question produced a turnout level that is virtually identical to the one produced by the traditional yes/no question. When we combine the 19 datasets into a single large one we find that the face-saving question reduces reported turnout by 7.6 percentage points (p<0.001, N=15,185).

Reference: Morin-Chassé, Alexandre, Damien Bol, Laura Stephenson and Simon Labbé St-Vincent. “How to survey about electoral turnout? The efficacy of the face-saving response items in nineteen different contexts.” Political Science Research Methods (accessible online ahead of print).

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Partisanship, Information, and Perceptions of Government corruption


André Blais, Université de Montréal

Elisabeth Gidengil, McGill Université

Anja Kilibarda, Columbia University


What’s the story?

Recent research suggests that trust in governments in postindustrial democracies has eroded. In fact, citizens increasingly believe that governments are unresponsive to their needs, and they frequently hold politics and politicians in low esteem. Perceptions of corruption have in turn fed into a democratic malaise. This study analyzes how partisanship and political information influence perceptions of government corruption.

We test four hypotheses:

H1: Partisans of incumbent parties perceive less corruption in government than nonpartisans.

H2: Partisans of opposition parties perceive the same amount of corruption in government as nonpartisans.

H3: The better informed perceive less corruption than the less informed.

H4: The impact of partisanship on perceptions of corruption is weaker among the better informed.

The data

We examine citizens’ perceptions of the degree of corruption in government in 11 elections between 2009 and 2013 by looking at survey data from collected before elections held in Canada, France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland, as part of the Making Electoral Democracy Work project. The respondents were asked to indicate how much corruption they perceived (hardly any, a little, some, a lot) in government. We ascertain the impact of partisanship and political information in diverse settings by looking at a variety of countries and regions within these countries and at elections at different levels (national, subnational, supranational).

The results

Our results confirm the first three hypotheses. Partisans of governing parties systematically perceive less corruption than non-partisans but who identify with opposition parties do not see more corruption than non-partisans. Additionally, the better informed are more prone to challenge the conventional wisdom that there is a lot of corruption in government. We do not find support for the fourth hypothesis, however; the impact of partisanship is not weaker among the better informed.

There is one important exception. In Quebec (and in Quebec only), the better informed perceive more corruption than the poorly informed. This may be related to the fact that the 2012 Quebec election took place amidst allegations of widespread corruption. It is possible that in the context of a new emerging scandal, the well informed are more likely to learn about it and are then more likely to revisit their pre-existing judgments.


Our results clearly show that people view government corruption through a partisan filter when ‘‘their’’ party is in power. However, the workings of the partisan screen have proved to be asymmetrical: There is little evidence that partisans of opposition parties perceive more corruption in government than nonpartisans. Finally, most of the time, the less informed are prone to see more corruption than their better informed counterparts.


For more details, see

André Blais, Elisabeth Gidengil, and Anja Kilibarda. Forthcoming. Partisanship, information and perceptions of government corruption. International Journal of Public Opinion Research (forthcoming)


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Will PEI change its electoral system?

By Katherine V.R. Sullivan, Université de Montréal

What’s the story?

Prince Edward Island is inviting Islanders to take part in an electoral reform plebiscite over a 10-day period between October 29th and November 7th. This extraordinary plebiscite will not only ask citizens to express their preferences about five different electoral systems, it will also allow them to express their preferences, either by traditional paper ballot, by telephone or electronically, using a government issued PIN. Furthermore, all citizens aged 16 or older will be eligible to vote.

The following question will be on the ballot:

“Rank the following electoral system options in your order of preference, 1 through 5 (with 1 being your most preferred and 5 being you least preferred)”.

The 5 options


This is the current electoral system, which involves single-member districts. This means that each voter casts a ballot for one candidate. The candidate having received the most votes in each district is elected.

First-past-the-post plus leaders

FPTP+ is similar to the status quo, but with the addition of a seat awarded to a leader whose party obtains a threshold of 10% of the provincial vote.

Preferential voting

This electoral system is used in Australia (lower house) and involves single-member districts. Voters are asked to rank the candidates according to preference. A candidate must then obtain an absolute majority of the votes in order to be elected. If no candidate has a majority, the candidate ranked last is eliminated and that candidate’s votes are redistributed to the other candidates on the basis of voters’ second preference votes. The process continues until a candidate has a majority of the votes and is elected.

 Dual Member Proportional

 DMP has two-member districts. Each party presents two candidates (primary and secondary) and voters elect a party. The first half of the seats goes to the primary candidate of the party with most votes in each district. After this is done, the number of seats each party “deserves” is computed, the total number corresponding to its share of the vote in the whole province. The number of remaining seats each party should get, which is the total number of seats it “deserves” according to the proportionality rule minus those won in the districts is then calculated. These remaining seats are allocated to the best performing candidates within each party. This should result in candidates from two different parties being elected in most (two member) districts.

Mixed Member Proportional

Finally, MMP is an electoral system used in Germany, New Zealand and Scotland, which gives voters two votes. The first vote is for a candidate in their single-member district and the second is for a party list within the entire province. The candidate with the most votes is elected in each district. After this is done, the number of seats each party “deserves” is computed, that total number corresponding to its share of the vote in the whole province. The number of remaining seats each party should get is then determined, which is the total number of seats it “deserves” according to the proportionality rule minus those won in the districts. These remaining seats are allocated to the candidates that are the top of the party lists. There are thus two types of elected candidates, those who represent specific districts and those who represent the whole province.

Why this matters

PEI’s plebiscite is important as it could lead to a change in the voting system in that province. Furthermore, this could affect the electoral reform debate that has been ongoing at the federal level. Finally, it may also spark a debate over voting age and online voting in Canada.

For more information on PEI’s voting-reform plebiscite, feel free to consult Elections Prince Edward Island’s website.

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Correct voting and post-election regret


André Blais

Université de Montréal

Anja Kilibarda

Columbia University

What’s the story?

Elections are often seen as a way for citizens to communicate their views. However, much research has shown that many voters are not well informed about the issues of the day. This raises the question whether some people make the wrong choice. That is, whether some may vote in a way that does not best reflect their interests and values and thus regret their decision after the fact.

This possibility has been discussed extensively in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum, as the media reported several instances of “Leave” voters expressing regret over not having chosen to stay instead (Opinium Research, 2016). But is this specific to the Brexit referendum? Or do some people, in every election, come to the conclusion, ex post, that they did not make the right decision? These are the questions that are addressed in this study.


In order to examine the extent to which citizens regret how they voted after Election Day and the factors that lead one individual to be more regretful than another, we rely on data from 11 elections in five different countries. Voters in Canada, France, Switzerland, Germany and Spain were asked ex post whether they thought that the decision they made to vote for a given party was a very good, fairly good, fairly bad, or very bad decision.


First, as shown in Figure 1, we find that the majority of citizens have no regret (that is, they answer that they made a very good decision) when it comes to their vote choice. Indeed, French voters express the least regret, with 69% of respondents believing their choice to have been a very good one, followed by voters in Quebec and Ontario, with 67% and 61% respectively. In most of the European regions surveyed about 50% of citizens express no regret.

Capture d’écran 2016-07-07 à 13.40.26

Furthermore, the results suggest that the politically well informed are somewhat less regretful than the relatively poorly-informed. Similarly, those who voted ‘correctly’ tend to be less regretful. Voting correctly means casting a vote that reflects one’s preferences and which is coherent with one’s ideological position. Having voted correctly mitigates regret. Also, the effect of correct voting on regret is greater among the least informed.


This research aimed to assess whether political information and correct voting affect the extent to which citizens regret the choices they made on Election Day. We find that regret is less prevalent among the politically well-informed and those who vote correctly. However, more research needs to be done on what makes voters more or less satisfied with their personal decisions.

For more details, see

André Blais & Anja Kilibarda. Forthcoming. “Correct Voting and Post-Election Regret. “ PS: Political Science & Politics.

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A new standard for evaluating the performance of electoral democracy

By André Blais, Eric Guntermann & Marc A. Bodet


What is the story?

We propose a simple and original standard for evaluating the performance of electoral democracies: the degree of correspondence between citizens’ party preferences and the party composition of the cabinet.


The criteria

We propose three criteria for assessing the correspondence between citizens’ party preferences and the party composition of governments that are formed after elections:

  • The proportion of citizens whose most preferred party is in government
  • Whether the party that is most liked overall is in government
  • How much more positively governing parties are rated than non-governing parties


The data

We use CSES data that include a party like/dislike question in which respondents are asked to rate each party on a 0-10 scale.

We focus on lower house elections in non-presidential democracies. Our sample includes 87 legislative elections held in 35 countries. We distinguish elections held under PR and under non-PR, and on the basis of disproportionality between vote and seat shares. For each party we compare its ratings in the electorate and the proportion of seats it had in the cabinet that was formed after the election.



Criterion 1: How many citizens have their preferred party in government?

More people have their preferred party in government under PR, and this is due to the fact that PR leads to the presence of more parties in cabinet. As is shown in Graph 1 below, 50% of citizens, on average, get their most liked party in government under PR, compared with 43% in non-PR elections. On this first criterion, PR elections perform better.


Criterion 2: Is the most liked party in government?

We compute the mean ratings of all the parties in each election to identify the party that is most liked overall and determine whether that party is in government or not. The most liked party was in government after each of the ten non-PR elections, while that was not always the case following PR elections. Namely, in 11 PR elections out of 74 (15%), the most liked party found itself in the opposition. On this second criterion PR elections perform worse.


Criterion 3: Are governing parties better liked than non-governing parties?

Governing parties are better liked than opposition parties in 82 of the 87 elections. But the mean differential, as can be seen in Graph 2, is slightly more positive in non-PR elections. This is so because PR elections usually lead to the formation of coalition governments that often include at least one small party, and small parties are usually less liked than large parties. On this third criterion PR elections also perform worse.



Coalitions formed under PR lead to the inclusion of more citizens’ most liked parties in government (which is good) but they also allow small less liked parties to enter government (which is not so good). In short, before concluding that one system is better than the other we must decide which aspects of citizens’ preferences matter the most.

For more details, see André Blais, Eric Guntermann, and Marc André Bodet. Forthcoming. « Linking Party Preference and the Composition of Government : A New Standard for Evaluating the Performance of Electoral Democracy. » Political Science Research and Methods.

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Do Citizens Feel Well Represented?

By Katherine V. R. Sullivan, Université de Montréal

What is the story?

Elections are designed to ensure that citizens’ views are taken into account by the political decision-makers. The hope is that voters will support the candidates/parties that represent their viewpoints and that as a consequence their views will have an indirect influence on the decisions that are made. But do citizens think that elections work as they should, that is, that the outcome of an election is a good reflection of public opinion? Do they feel that their views are well represented in the legislature?


I examine feelings of representation across 27 elections within 5 countries (Switzerland, France, Spain, Germany and Canada) at the national, supra-national and sub-national levels by using data from the Making Electoral Democracy Work (MEDW) project.

I measure respondents’ feelings of representation by combining two survey questions. The first question “How well do you think your views are reflected in the legislature of the province/state/canton/country?” is on a scale from 0 (not at all) to 10 (totally). The second question, also on a scale from 0 (not accurate at all) to 10 (very accurate) goes as follows “How accurately do you think the outcome of the election reflects voters’ views?” I use the mean score given to these two questions.


Table 1 shows that overall evaluations of representation tend to be slightly positive. The mean is above 5 in 19 cases and below the mid-point in only 8 instances. Voters were most positive with respect to the Bavaria national and regional elections, whereas judgments are most negative in the case of the European elections in Provence and Madrid.

Table 1: Mean score by election



Bavaria national 6.20 (0.03)
Bavaria regional 6.15 (0.03)
Ontario national 6.01 (0.05)
British-Colombia National 5.88 (0.05)
Lucerne National 5.87 (0.06)
Zurich Regional 5.84 (0.06)
Lower Saxony Regional 5.81 (0.07)
Lucerne Regional 5.78 (0.05)
Lower Saxony National 5.69 (0.08)
Quebec National 5.58 (0.05)
Zurich national 5.48 (0.72)
Paris Municipal 5.45 (0.07)
IDF national 5.40 (0.07)
Lower Saxony Europe 5.23 (0.08)
Quebec regional 5.13 (0.07)
Provence national 5.09 (0.07)
Catalonia regional 5.08 (0.07)
Ontario regional 5.06 (0.07)
Bavaria Europe 5.00 (0.04)
Marseille municipal 4.96 (0.09)
Madrid Regional 4.94 (0.07)
Catalonia Europe 4.81 (0.07)
IDF Europe 4.70 (0.07)
Madrid National 4.67 (0.08)
Catalonia national 4.52 (0.07)
Provence Europe 4.51 (0.07)
Madrid Europe 4.34 (0.07)

Standard deviation presented in parentheses

Table 2 indicates that the Swiss and German electorates have the most positive perceptions and Spaniards the most negative.

Table 2: Mean score by country



Switzerland 5.90 (0.03)
Germany 5.87 (0.02)
Canada 5.62 (0.03)
France 5.02 (0.03)
Spain 4.73 (0.03)

Standard deviation presented in parentheses

Finally, Table 3 shows that citizens tend to be more positive overall about representation at the national and sub-national level and feel more negative about the supra-national level.

Table 3: Mean score by level



National 5.73 (0.02)
Sub-national 5.67 (0.02)
Supranational 4.82 (0.25)

Standard deviation presented in parentheses


All in all citizens from Switzerland, Germany and Canada have slightly positive views about the representative process while Spaniards are slightly negative. Judgments do not differ between the national and the subnational levels but Europeans are somewhat negative about the European level.

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Democracy and football

By Ignacio Lago, Univesitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona *

The influence of politics on sports and more specifically on football (soccer) has been widely discussed, but no hard empirical evidence can be found in political science, economics or sports science research. We fill this gap by examining whether the competitive balance in football domestic leagues (i.e. the extent to which certain clubs dominate the domestic league) is affected by the country’s political regime, We rely on data from two samples of 47 and 49 European countries from 1950 through 2011 and 1,980 and 1,960 football domestic leagues, respectively,

We argue that domestic leagues are more heavily dominated by the same club in non-democratic regimes than in democracies. Democratic transitions trigger pressures to increase the competitive balance within football domestic leagues in two ways. First, the political manipulation of football decreases with democratization. The link between non- democratic regimes and specific teams, particularly evident in communist countries, breaks when a country experiences a transition to democracy. Secondly, at the same time, with the onset of democracy, capitalist modus operandi are progressively adopted by clubs and football then starts to operate as a market free of price restrictions with no salary caps or draft rights. The economic liberalization that takes place in transitions to democracy disperses resources that undermine the monopolistic dominance of certain teams supported by non-democracies and generates competition among descending and ascending teams.

The first piece of evidence supporting the argument that political regimes affect football domestic leagues is displayed in Figure 1. The relationship between the percentage of domestic leagues won by the most successful club in each country and the number of leagues played under democracy is displayed. As can be seen the competitive balance of football domestic leagues is positively correlated with the length of democracy. The average value of Winner in democracies, 40.75, is substantially lower than in non-democracies, 48.36.

In a second analysis, we examine the competitiveness of domestic leagues in the 13 countries which have experienced a transition to democracy after 1950. In all of them, not one of the most successful clubs during the non-democratic period has been the most successful club after democratization. More specifically, for the most successful club in the non-democratic period, winning the previous league significantly increases the probability of winning the league the next year when the country is not a democracy. However, when the country is a democracy, being the winner of the previous league does not affect its probability of winning the current year. In other words, when countries experience a transition to democracy, dominant clubs in the non-democratic period become weaker competitors.

Figure 1: Winners in football domestic leagues in democracies and non-democracies

winners in football

Ignacio Lago, Universitat Pompeu Fabra and GEN
Carlos Lago-Peñas, GEN (University of Vigo)
Santiago Lago-Peñas, GEN (University of Vigo)
“Democracy and Football”, Social Science Quarterly, 2016 (early view)

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