Research Findings

The findings of our research will produce a number of publications, such as papers in international conferences, articles in scientific journals, and collective books.

But the purpose is also to foster a dialogue about our results and their implications about the design of electoral institutions with the policy community. To that effect, we will establish close links and organize joint workshops with our partners.

This collaboration will lead to the organization of an international symposium on the challenges of electoral democracy, to be held in 2015, in order to stimulate an open discussion of proposals for institutional reform to enhance the performance of contemporary democracies.

Here are the publications, conference papers and other works derived from our research:


Blais André, Maxime Héroux-Legault, Laura Stephenson, William Cross, and Elisabeth Gidengil, “Assessing the Psychological and Mechanical Impact of Electoral Rules: A Quasi-Experiment.” Electoral Studies, forthcoming.

Blais, André and Ludovic Rheault. 2011. “Optimists and Skeptics: Why Do People Believe in the Value of their Single Vote?” Electoral Studies 30: 77-82.

  • Abtract: We investigate the origins of voters’ beliefs about the value of their single vote. We construe such beliefs as a function of psychological predispositions and exposure to information about the competitiveness of the electoral race. We test this theoretical model using data from the 2008 Canadian federal election and a new survey question tapping voters’ beliefs about whether their vote can make a difference. Our results show that sense of efficacy has a strong effect, efficacious voters being more prone to optimism. Competitiveness of the race also matters, but only among attentive voters.

Blais, André and Simon Labbé St-Vincent*. 2011. “Personality Traits, Political Attitudes, and the Propensity to Vote.” European Journal of Political Research, 50: 395-417.

  • Abstract: This article examines the link between personality traits, political attitudes and the propensity to vote in elections, using an Internet panel survey conducted in two Canadian provinces at the time of the 2008 federal election and the subsequent provincial elections. It first establishes that the two most proximate attitudes that shape one’s propensity to vote are political interest and sense of civic duty. The article then look at specific personality traits (altruism, shyness, efficacy and conflict avoidance) that could affect level of political interest, civic duty and the propensity to vote in elections. In the last part of the analysis, a model is proposed and tested, according to which the impact of personality traits is indirect, being mediated by interest and duty. The article shows that the data are consistent with such an interpretation.

Blais, André. 2010. “Making Electoral Democracy Work,” Electoral Studies 29: 169-170.

  • Abstract: This note presents a new electoral studies research program that will examine party and voter behaviour in 27 elections (national, supra-national, and sub-national) in five countries (Canada, France, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland) and that includes a series of experiments designed to complement the analyses of these 27 elections. The purpose is to ascertain how the rules of the game, especially the electoral system, and the competitiveness and salience of elections influence the reciprocal relationship between voters and parties.

Blais, André, Romain Lachat, Airo Hino, and Pascal Doray-Demers. 2011. ‘The Mechanical and Psychological Effects of Electoral Systems.’ Comparative Politics, 44: 1599-1621.

  • Abstract: Having two votes for the same election or two simultaneous elections with different electoral systems provides a golden opportunity to ascertain the impact of the electoral system and to sort out the relative magnitude of mechanical and psychological effects on parties and voters. The authors propose a new methodology for estimating such effects and apply that methodology to 13 elections, 9 in Switzerland and 4 in Japan. The authors find mechanical effects to dominate in half of the elections examined, most particularly in the more recent Swiss elections. They discuss the implications of these findings

Blais, André, Simon Labbé St-Vincent, Jean-François Laslier, Nicolas Sauger, and Karine van der Straeten. 2011. “Strategic Vote Choice in One Round and Two Round Elections:  An Experimental Study.” Political Research Quarterly, 21: 637-646.

  • Abstract: The authors test a model of strategic vote choice in which the decision to support or not to support a candidate depends on the benefit associated with the election of a given candidate and the candidate’s perceived viability. They test the model with data collected in a series of experiments in which the participants voted in eight successive elections, four in one round and four in two rounds. Results show that the same model applies to both voting systems, although the impact of perceived viability is slightly weaker in two-round elections. The authors conclude that strategic considerations are almost as important in two-round as in one-round elections.

Dumitrescu, Delia and André Blais. 2011. “Increased Realism at Lower Cost: The Case of the Hybrid Experiment.” PS: Political Science & Politics 44: 521-523.

  • Abstract: We propose an experimental design particularly adapted to the study of individual behavior in collective action situations. The experimental protocol improves on the artificiality commonly present in lab and survey experiments to achieve a closer replication of the real life conditions of such decisions, while avoiding the high costs associated with field experiments. We exemplify this design by means of a study on strategic voting in elections.

Indridason, Indridi “Expressive Motives & Third-Party Candidates”. Journal of Theoretical Politics, forthcoming.

  • Abstract: The electoral success of an extremist party usually attracts considerable attention. Yet the rarely have an opportunity to directly influence policy as they are, more often than not, shut out of the policy making process by mainstream parties. Extremist parties may, however, influence policy indirectly by inducing mainstream parties to adjust their electoral strategies. I consider a model of electoral competition between an expressive extremist party and two mainstream parties in first-past-the post and majority runoff elections. The presence of an extremist party results in an equilibrium policy outcome that is further away from the extremist’s preferred policy. The magnitude of the effect is also shown to depend on the type of majoritarian electoral system.

Sauger, Nicolas, André Blais, Jean-François Laslier and Karine van der Straeten. 2012. “Strategic Voting in the Laboratory.” In Experimental Political Science: Principles and Practices, Bernhard Kittel, Wolfgang J. Luhan and Rebecca B. Morton (dir.). Palgrave Macmillan,

Singh, Shane, Ignacio Lago and André Blais, “Winning and Competitiveness as Determinants of Political Support.” Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming.

  • Abstract: Objectives. This study examines the impact of competitiveness, winning, and ideological congruence on evaluations of democratic principles, institutions, and performance. We posit that winning matters most. Individuals will hold favorable views toward democracy when it produces the outcomes they desire, independent of other contextual factors associated with elections. Methods. We use cross-sectional multiple regression models to analyze survey data from Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Results. We find that the psychological effect of being an election winner at the national level greatly boosts evaluations of democracy, as measured with a host of different indicators, while competitiveness and congruence do not systematically affect these evaluations. Conclusions. This study sheds light on what factors boost regime support among the populace by sorting out the relative impact of being in a competitive district, winning (at the local and national level), and having a representative with a similar ideological outlook.

Singh, Shane, Ekrem Karakoç, and André Blais. 2012. “Differentiating Winners, How Elections Affect Satisfaction with Democracy.” Electoral Studies 31: 201-211.

  • Abstract: Previous research indicates that supporting a winning party in an election boosts satisfaction with democracy, but does not fully or adequately test the mechanisms behind this relationship. Using original survey data, we make a contribution on three fronts. First, we inquire what winning (or losing) an election really means in terms of the performance of one’s preferred party. Second, we employ panel data, which helps to determine whether an election outcome truly impacts satisfaction levels. Third, we examine the breadth of electoral victory, testing whether the satisfaction boost from a regional victory extends to the national and supranational levels. Findings indicate that the inclusion of one’s selected party in government is the most important factor for satisfaction with democracy, which attests to the importance of policy considerations in engendering satisfaction. In addition, winning a regional election strengthens satisfaction beyond the regional level, which indicates that the mere experience of being a “winner” also works to increase satisfaction.

Van der Straeten, Karine, Jean-François Laslier, Nicolas Sauger, and André Blais.  2010, “Strategic, Sincere, and Heuristic Voting under Four Election Rules.” Social Choice and Welfare, 35: 435-472.

  • Abstract: We report on laboratory experiments on voting. In a setting where subjects have single-peaked preferences we find that the rational choice theory provides very good predictions of actual individual behavior in one-round and approval voting elections, but fares poorly in explaining vote choice under two-round elections. We conclude that voters behave strategically as far as strategic computations are not too demanding, in which case they rely on simple heuristics (in two-round elections) or they just vote sincerely (in single transferable vote elections).

Van der Straeten, Karine, Nicolas Sauger, Jean-François Laslier, and André Blais, “Sorting out Mechanical and Psychological Effects in Candidate Elections: An Appraisal with Experimental Data.” British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming.

  • Abstract: The paper proposes a way to measure mechanical and psychological effects of majority runoff versus plurality electoral systems in candidate elections. Building on a series of laboratory experiments, we evaluate these effects with respect to the probability of electing a Condorcet winner candidate. In our experiment, the runoff system very slightly favours the Condorcet winner candidate, but this total effect is small. We show that this is the case because the mechanical and psychological effects tend to cancel each other out. Compared to plurality, the mechanical effect of runoffs is to systematically advantage the Condorcet winner candidate, as usually assumed; but our study detects an opposite psychological effect, to the disadvantage of this candidate.