Improving voting and elections

Why voters in emerging democracies are more reliable than we thought

Why voters in emerging democracies are more reliable than we thought

Elections in new democracies such as those in Central and Eastern Europe are often expected to be volatile affairs, with sizeable shifts in support between parties from one election to another. But is this really a fair characterisation of how citizens of these states choose to use their vote? Presenting findings from a new study, Daniel Bochsler and Miriam Hänni write that the key to understanding voting behaviour in new democracies is to recognise the importance of economic performance. Citizens in younger democracies are more likely to relate the legitimacy of a government to the country’s economic performance, with this effect reducing as a democracy matures.

The limitations of opinion polls – and why this matters for political decision making

The limitations of opinion polls – and why this matters for political decision making

Recent research by Jennings and Wlezien has demonstrated that political polling has remained as accurate as ever in terms of margin of error in the week prior to an election. However, polls are usually publicly judged on whether they call the result correctly. In this, writes Sean Swan, they have been less accurate over recent UK elections. This has particular consequences for how and when political leaders make decisions about discretionary elections, and so it matters that we understand polls and their limitations correctly.

Local elections: diverse voices are being drowned out by the undemocratic voting system in England and Wales

Local elections: diverse voices are being drowned out by the undemocratic voting system in England and Wales

England’s local councillors are elected under a First Past the Post electoral system with multi-member wards. As a result, Chris Terry argues, the results will be strongly non-proportional and so the system needs to be reformed.   

England’s local elections: how councillor numbers are being reduced by stealth

England’s local elections: how councillor numbers are being reduced by stealth

Local elections are being held across England on 3 May, but finding out where and for which seats is not always straightforward. Of more concern, writes Chris Game, is that the number of local councillors is gradually being reduced, in a process that lacks transparency, proper scrutiny and a clear, democratic rationale.

Are discretionary referendums on the EU becoming ‘politically obligatory?’

Are discretionary referendums on the EU becoming ‘politically obligatory?’

Do governments call referendums on EU matters because contextual circumstances make them ‘politically obligatory’ or because ruling politicians believe they are the ‘appropriate’ decision-making mechanism? Aude Bicquelet-Lock and Helen Addison argue that, contrary to these suggested reasons, politicians have the freedom to choose whether and when to use referendums strategically to achieve their domestic and European policy objectives.

Will the ‘youthquake’ shake up the 2018 local elections?

Will the ‘youthquake’ shake up the 2018 local elections?

Youth engagement was heralded by some as a key factor in the 2017 UK general election result but what impact could it have in the 2018 local elections? Erica Belcher argues that this enthusiasm may not necessarily translate to the local level, but it’s more important than ever for young people to engage in local politics.

On the ballot: how electoral procedures shape the work of Members of the Scottish Parliament

On the ballot: how electoral procedures shape the work of Members of the Scottish Parliament

The electoral system by which members of parliament are elected shapes how legislators perceive their roles. Furthermore, write David C.W. Parker and Caitlyn M. Richter, in the case of the Scottish Parliament, both the electoral system and the change implemented prior to the 2007 election, whereby candidate names were removed from party-list ballots, have an impact on how Members of the Scottish Parliament spend their time and resources.

More women at the top? Why we see variation in local–national gender gaps for elected assemblies

More women at the top? Why we see variation in local–national gender gaps for elected assemblies

There is considerable variation in the representation of women in elected chambers between different levels of government, but the differences are not uniform between countries. By examining the unusual case of Germany, where the representation of women is greater at higher echelons, Jessica Fortin-Rittberger, Christina Eder, Corinna Kroeber and Vanessa Marent find that the nature of the party system is crucial, in particular the strength of left-leaning and minor parties, which has implications for understanding levels of representation in other democracies.

England’s local elections 2018: bridging the information gap with the Democratic Dashboard

England’s local elections 2018: bridging the information gap with the Democratic Dashboard

On 3 May, voters across England have the chance to vote in elections to their local councils. The Democratic Dashboard is Democratic Audit’s voter resource, which brings together an array of information on the local elections taking place. Our aim is to simplify the complicated world of local elections in the UK, and present the essential information in an effort to boost participation. The UK has one of the lowest rate of electoral participation by young people in the OECD, especially at local elections, and we hope to play a part in using the digital environment to bridge the information gap, writes Joshua Townsley. 

Digital technology is changing party politics, the interesting question is how

Digital technology is changing party politics, the interesting question is how

It is evident from the 2017 general election, writes Kate Dommett, that digital technology has been fully embraced by political parties and incorporated into campaigning strategies. It is also creating opportunities for satellite campaigns to mobilise citizens. Longer term, digital innovations have the potential to reshape the nature of engagement between citizens and parties, though these more fundamental changes are not yet being implemented.