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Andrew J. Drummond, "Assimilation, contrast and voter projections of parties in left-right space: Does the electoral system matter? Party Politics, 17 (November, 2011), 711-743. [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol17/issue6/ ]

First paragraph:
Do some electoral systems promote greater political bias than others? Systems employing single-member electoral districts (SMDs), such as the United States and the United Kingdom, are best known for the production of mechanical and psychological effects which work in tandem to reduce the size of the party system (Blais and Carty, 1991; Duverger, 1963; Taagepera and Shugart, 1989, 1993), but such systems likely also have important consequences for political competition. For example, the pressure on candidates in SMD systems to build up personal reputations as distinct from the party's, either through celebrity (Carey and Shugart, 1995) or by delivering pork (Ferejohn, 1974), is higher than where voters cast only a party vote on the ballot 1 (Lancaster, 1986; Norris, 2004; Stratmann and Baur, 2002). As a result, voters in SMD systems are more cognizant of candidates and their messages than are their counterparts living in systems where party reputation dominates (Norris, 2004: 241-3).

Figures and Tables:
Figure 1. Percentage of country cases where the self-placement variable is significant at p 0.05
Table 1. Assimilation effects across 18 democracies for largest seat-winning party
Table 2. Contrast effects across 18 democracies for largest seat-winning party
Table 3. Assimilation effects by party rank (by seat share)
Table 4. Contrast effects by party rank (by seat share)
Figure 2. Assimilation effects by district magnitude
Figure 3. Contrast effects by district magnitude
Table 5. Multi-level analysis of assimilation effects by party rank (by seat share)
Table 6. Multi-level analysis of contrast effects by party rank (by seat share)
Figure 4. Effect of district magnitude on the predicted strength of contrast

Last Paragraph:
(second paragraph of conclusion) Assimilation and contrast effects are clearly universal phenomena that impact on a wide array of advanced democracies, and their implications for the ability of citizens to demand responsible party government are clearly important. The results indicate that while we can expect to find this sort of bias in most systems, the strength of it may depend on the qualities of party competition there, qualities which are no doubt influenced by electoral design. For the debate over political sophistication and the institutional ramifications for it of electoral design, this study certainly lends support to the notion that bias can be limited through the use of more permissive electoral rules and the larger party systems they foster. Systems like these tend to focus political information around party platforms and ideology, both of which seem to make tracking parties and their proposals an easier task.

Last updated December 2011