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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Voter Satisfaction and Electoral Systems: Does Preferential Voting in Candidate-Centered Systems Make A Difference

  • Author(s): Farrell, David M;
  • McAllister, Ian
  • et al.

Since the onset of the current wave of democratization, there has been a growing interest in researching the institutional factors underlying citizen support for democracy. This has also, in part, reflected a renewed scholarly interest in seeking answers to the questions of whether and how institutions ‘matter’. Of all the institutions that may matter, few would deny that electoral systems are among the most significant. They are the central institutional design issue for a new polity to resolve; and they are also among the most malleable of the political institutions. The aim of this paper is to assess whether ballot structure has a wider impact on levels of voter satisfaction with democracy. This paper uses the latest wave of data from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) to assess the role of ballot structure, as well as a battery of other electoral system and individual-level variables, in influencing voter satisfaction with democracy in thirty countries. Using an intra-party measure which identifies the main characteristics of preferential system, our comparative analysis has shown that such systems promote a greater sense of fairness about election outcomes among citizens, which in turn is a major component of the public’s satisfaction with the democratic system.

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