Elections and electoral systems

Why did the Conservatives’ large lead in vote shares produce only an 80-seat majority?

Why did the Conservatives’ large lead in vote shares produce only an 80-seat majority?

Plurality rule voting systems have a well-known tendency to exaggerate the seats of the largest party. A full analysis of the 2019 results remains to be completed, but Tim Smith finds evidence that this time around the Conservatives had a modest 23 seat advantage over Labour in terms of two-party bias. The ‘leader’s bias’ advantage was also much smaller than that which Labour enjoyed in 1997–2005. This may mean that the future boundary reforms to equalise constituency sizes may not be as beneficial as the Conservatives hope.

Voters dislike disproportionality in electoral systems – even when it benefits the party they support

Voters dislike disproportionality in electoral systems – even when it benefits the party they support

Taking advantage of a uniquely designed survey experiment, Carolina Plescia, André Blais and John Högström investigate the effect of proportionality on voter support for voting rules in four countries, namely Austria, the UK, Ireland and Sweden. They find that voters for both small and large parties dislike disproportionality in electoral systems, with little cross-country variation.

First-past-the-post – normal (disproportionate) service has resumed

First-past-the-post – normal (disproportionate) service has resumed

In the 2017 election the UK’s ‘first-past-the-post’ electoral system operated quite proportionately, as the Conservatives and Labour level-pegged at high levels of support, and squeezed out support for other parties. In 2019, however, FPTP reverted most of the way back to its historic pattern, awarding a huge ‘leader’s bonus’ of seats to the Conservatives in England and to the SNP in Scotland. Patrick Dunleavy explores why the levels of disproportionality have bounced back towards historic levels.

General election 2019: what are the parties saying about electoral reform?

General election 2019: what are the parties saying about electoral reform?

During this general election campaign, there has been a disappointing lack of focus on what is required to reform democracy in the UK, when the public think it needs a lot of improvement. Ian Simpson from the Electoral Reform Society assesses which reforms have been promised in the parties’ manifestos, and argues that they should be given greater attention, given the lack of public trust in our democratic institutions.

Citizens with economically left-wing and culturally right-wing views vote less and are less satisfied with politics

Citizens with economically left-wing and culturally right-wing views vote less and are less satisfied with politics

Many citizens hold left-wing positions on economic issues and right-wing positions on cultural issues, but few parties do so. How do these ‘left-authoritarian’ citizens react to the absence of parties that fit their views? Drawing on a new study, Sven Hillen and Nils Steiner report that left-authoritarian citizens are less likely to vote, less satisfied with democracy and have lower levels of trust in political institutions when there is no viable left-authoritarian party.

Be careful what you wish for: Brexit and the call for another referendum

Be careful what you wish for: Brexit and the call for another referendum

Whether or not to hold a referendum on Brexit is a clear dividing line between parties in the upcoming UK general election. However, Philipp Harms and Claudia Landwehr argue that support for such a measure is often largely contingent on expected outcomes, and so can entrench political divides. More deliberative democratic innovations might therefore be better suited to resolving the UK’s political conflicts.

Referendums can be more effective if voters can choose from several options

Referendums can be more effective if voters can choose from several options

As the UK prepares for a second general election since the 2016 Brexit referendum, Charlotte C.L. Wagenaar demonstrates how a multi-option referendum could be a valuable tool in future to gauge more nuanced public attitudes on divisive issues. By presenting several alternatives, they can encourage votes for constructive compromises rather than blunt protest votes.

The empty centre: why the Liberal Democrats need to demonstrate competence and unity to win votes

The empty centre: why the Liberal Democrats need to demonstrate competence and unity to win votes

Liberal parties in western democracies which advocate broadly centrist economic policies, such as the Liberal Democrats, have performed badly in some recent elections, even though their policies are often in tune with a large proportion of the electorate. Using survey data Roi Zur finds they have little scope for winning votes by shifting in either direction on the left-right spectrum. Instead they need to demonstrate they are a credible and competent governing party, able to prevent Brexit, and are not just expressing their opposition to it.

Canada’s 2019 federal election: is the first-past-the-post electoral system broken?

Canada’s 2019 federal election: is the first-past-the-post electoral system broken?

In Canada’s recent federal election, the most popular party by vote share, the Conservative Party, did not gain the most seats in parliament and smaller parties also lost out, to the benefit of Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party, who will form a minority government. Chris Stafford assesses what this means for the country’s on-going debate on electoral reform.

Are the DUP for turning? When the Union is perceived to be at risk, all options are on the table

Are the DUP for turning? When the Union is perceived to be at risk, all options are on the table

The UK government’s latest attempt to push a deal through Parliament failed when the DUP withdrew support. Mary C. Murphy explains the DUP’s thinking and options. She writes that, while they can continue to pursue a strategy which is focused on revising the deal to their satisfaction, it is also possible that they could change tack completely and re-align their position in favour of the UK remaining in the EU.