From Kosovo to Kabul, the last decade witnessed growing interest in "electoral engineering". Reformers have sought to achieve either greater government accountability through majoritarian arrangements or wider parliamentary diversity through proportional formula. Underlying the normative debates are important claims about the impact and consequences of electoral reform for political representation and voting behavior. This study compares and evaluates two broad schools of thought, each offering contrasting expectations. One popular approach claims that formal rules define the electoral incentives facing parties, politicians, and citizens. By changing the rules, rational choice institutionalism claims that we have the capacity to shape political behavior among politicians and citizens. Reformers believe that electoral engineering can solve multiple social problems, whether by mitigating ethnic conflict, strengthening voter-party bonds, generating democratic accountability, or boosting women?s representation. Alternative cultural modernization theories differ in their emphasis on the primary motors driving human behavior, their expectations about the pace of change, and also their assumptions about the ability of formal institutional rules to alter, rather than adapt to, deeply embedded and habitual social norms and patterns of human behavior.
To consider these issues, this book compares the consequences of electoral rules and cultural modernization for many dimensions of political representation and voting behavior, including patterns of party competition, the strength of social cleavages and party loyalties, levels of turnout, the gender and ethnic diversity of parliaments, and the provision of constituency service. Systematic evidence is drawn the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems based on surveys of parliamentary and presidential contests held in over thirty countries. The study covers elections held from 1996 to 2002 in newer and established democracies ranging from the United States, Australia and Switzerland to Peru, Taiwan and Ukraine. The book concludes that formal rules do matter, with the social cleavages and partisan identities of voters, and the diversity and behavior of elected representatives, shaped by the incentives generated by majoritarian, combined, and proportional electoral systems.