Measuring the Competitiveness of Elections

35 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2019

See all articles by Gary W. Cox

Gary W. Cox

Stanford University

Jon H. Fiva

Norwegian School of Management (BI) - Department of Economics

Daniel M. Smith

Harvard University - Department of Government

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: 2018

Abstract

The concept of electoral competition plays a central role in many subfields of political science, but no consensus exists on how to measure it. One key challenge is how to conceptualize and measure electoral competitiveness at the district level across alternative electoral systems. Recent efforts to meet this challenge have introduced general measures of competitiveness which rest on explicit calculations about how votes translate into seats, but also implicit assumptions about how effort maps into votes (and how costly effort is). We investigate how assumptions about the effort-to-votes mapping affect the units in which competitiveness is best measured, arguing in favor of vote-share denominated measures and against vote-share-per-seat measures. Whether elections under multimember proportional representation systems are judged more or less competitive than single-member plurality or runoff elections depends directly on the units in which competitiveness is assessed (and hence on assumptions about how effort maps into votes).

Keywords: competitiveness, measurement, electoral systems, mobilization, turnout

JEL Classification: D720

Suggested Citation

Cox, Gary W. and Fiva, Jon H. and Smith, Daniel M., Measuring the Competitiveness of Elections (2018). CESifo Working Paper No. 7418. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3338772

Gary W. Cox (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States
650-723-4278 (Phone)

Jon H. Fiva

Norwegian School of Management (BI) - Department of Economics ( email )

Oslo
Norway

Daniel M. Smith

Harvard University - Department of Government ( email )

1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://sites.google.com/site/danielmarkhamsmith

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