(Under Review) You’ve Got a (Coarsened Exact) Match! Non-Parametric Imputation of European Abstainers’ Vote (with Marco Giani).

  1. Abstract: There is a long tradition of imputation studies looking at how abstainers would vote if they had to. This is crucial for democracies because when abstainers and voters have different preferences, the electoral outcome ceases to reflect the will of the people. In this paper, we apply a new causal inference method to revisit existing evidence. We impute the vote of abstainers in 15 European countries using Coarsened Exact Matching (CEM). While traditional imputation methods rely on the choice of voters that are, on average, like abstainers and automatically simulate full turnout, CEM only imputes the vote of the abstainers that are exactly like voters, and allows to simulate the electoral outcome under varying levels of turnout, including levels that more credibly simulate compulsory voting. We find that higher turnout would benefit social democratic parties while imposing substantial losses to extreme left and green parties.

(Under Review) The Responsiveness of Legislators in European Party Democracies: A Field Experiment (with Thomas Gschwend, Thomas Zittel, and Steffen Zittlau).

  1. Abstract: Individual legislators are important agents of political representation. However, this is contingent upon their responsiveness to constituency requests. While this issue is well researched in US-American contexts, we know less about the extent and the conditions of individual level responsiveness in European party democracies. In this paper, we report a field experiment with legislators aimed at exploring the interactions between candidate-centered electoral system features and whether the constituents include a personalized or partisan cue in their demand. We find that, consistent with the personal-vote seeking literature, legislators treated with a personalized message are more likely to respond (67%) than those treated with a partisan message (59%). Also, we show that the treatment effect is larger for legislators elected in a single member district than for those elected via party lists.

Choosing an Electoral Rule Behind the Veil of Ignorance (With André Blais, Maxime Coulombe, Jean-François Laslier, and Jean-Benoit Pilet).

  1. Abstract: Citizens are increasingly involved in the design of democratic institutions. If they support the institution that best serves their self-interest, the outcome inevitably advantages the largest group and disadvantages minorities. In this paper, we challenge this pessimistic view with an original lab experiment in France and Great Britain. In the first phase, experimental subjects experience elections under plurality and approval voting. In the second phase, they decide which rule they want to use for an extra election. The treatment is whether they do or do not have information to determine where their self-interest lies before deciding. We find that self-interest shapes people’s decision, but so does concern for the common good. The implications are: (1) people have consistent ‘value-driven preferences’ for electoral rules, and (2) putting them behind the veil of ignorance à la Rawls leads to an outcome that reflects these values.

Does the Number of Candidates Increase Turnout? RDD Evidence from Two-Round Elections (With Ria Ivandic and Nicolas Sauger).

  1. Abstract: According to many, electoral turnout increases with the number of participating candidates because voters have more chances to find one that suits them. In this paper, we estimate the causal effect of this long-discussed (yet not proven) determinant of turnout in applying a regression discontinuity design (RDD) to data from around 14,000 legislative and cantonal electoral districts in France since 1978. In the two-round system used for these elections, all the candidates that pass a certain vote threshold in the first round can participate in the second round. We use this discontinuity and compare districts in which the third candidate falls just above and just below this threshold. We find an average treatment effect of +5.4%-points in the share of valid votes. Further, we show that this effect is genuine, as it is not driven by increases in competitiveness, or an extraordinary mobilization of the French against the extreme right.

Electoral Rules, Strategic Entry and Polarization: Duverger’s Law in Theory and the Lab (with Kostas Matakos, Orestis Troumpounis, and Dimitrios Xefteris).

  1. Abstract: It is a stylized fact that the number of parties is larger and that platform polarization is higher in proportional systems than in disproportional ones. However, to date, we still lack a complete understanding of the underlying mechanisms: are these variables independently affected by the rule, or are they intertwined? We propose a new model where both party entry and platform choice are endogenous and we show that electoral rule disproportionality exhibits: a) a direct negative effect on both variables and b) an additional indirect effect on polarization via the number of parties (for the same electoral rule disproportionality, a smaller number of parties leads to lower polarization). We then test this model with the help of a laboratory experiment which strongly confirms the theoretical predictions of the model.