The Electoral Sweet Spot: Low-Magnitude Proportional Electoral Systems

45 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 11 Aug 2016

See all articles by Simon Hix

Simon Hix

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Government

John M. Carey

Dartmouth College

Date Written: 2009

Abstract

Can electoral rules be designed to achieve political ideals such as accurate representation of voter preferences and accountable governments? The academic literature commonly divides electoral systems into two types, majoritarian and proportional, and implies a straightforward trade-off by which having more of an ideal that a majoritarian system provides means giving up an equal measure of what proportional representation (PR) delivers. We posit that these trade-offs are better characterized as non-linear and that one can gain most of the advantages attributed to PR, while sacrificing less of those attributed to majoritarian elections, by maintaining district magnitudes in the low to moderate range. We test this intuition against data from 609 elections in 81 countries between 1945 and 2006. Electoral systems that use low-magnitude multi-member districts produce disproportionality indices almost on par with those of pure PR systems while limiting party system fragmentation and producing simpler government coalitions.

Keywords: elections, representation, legislatures, accounta

Suggested Citation

Hix, Simon and Carey, John Michael, The Electoral Sweet Spot: Low-Magnitude Proportional Electoral Systems (2009). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1451145

Simon Hix (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Government ( email )

Northampton NN7 1NE
United Kingdom

John Michael Carey

Dartmouth College ( email )

Department of Sociology
Hanover, NH 03755
United States
603 646 1130 (Phone)
603 646 2154 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~jcarey

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