Do electoral systems affect how citizens hold their government accountable?

Event type: 
Seminar
Date and time: 
Tuesday, 18 April, 2017 - 12:45 to 14:00
Presenter(s): 
Matthias Krönke, PhD Candidate University of Cape Town & Sarah J. Lockwood, PhD Candidate, Harvard University
Venue: 
CSSR Seminar Room 4.29, Level 4 Leslie Social Science Building, Upper Campus
Abstract / Description: 

This paper asks whether a country’s choice of electoral system affects the methods citizens use to try and hold their government accountable. A large body of literature suggests that electoral system type has an impact on voting behavior, but little work has been done so far looking at other forms of democratic accountability (contact and protest). Using Round 6 Afrobarometer data, combined with a new, author-created, dataset, we find that the type of electoral system does indeed have a significant impact on these other forms of participation. Citizens in PR systems are significantly more likely to protest when they are dissatisfied than those in majoritarian ones, while those in majoritarian systems are more likely to contact their elected representatives. We argue that this is because the connection between citizens and representatives in majoritarian systems is clearer, closer and more responsive, making contact an effective strategy and providing an efficient "safety valve" when citizens are dissatisfied. The lack of a similar connection in most PR systems, in contrast, leads citizens to turn to protest with greater regularity. We provide evidence to support this hypothesis, and also suggest some directions for future research.