Ana Maria Belchior,
"Explaining MPs' perceptions of voters' positions in a
party-mediated representation system: Evidence from the
Portuguese case," Party Politics, 20 (May 2014),
403-415. [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol20/issue3/
For some decades now, legislators' political perceptions
have been acknowledged as being an important feature that
has to be taken into account when studying democratic
representation. From an empirical point of view, there is
evidence that the performance of political parties is often
determined by the view that leaders have of the stance of
their supporters (see, e.g., Clausen, 1977; Miller and
Stokes, 1963). These findings are significant enough to make
party leaders' political perceptions a crucial topic of
study. The literature on political representation has
increasingly recognized the importance of the role of
citizens in the political decision-making process (see,
e.g., Norris, 1999), suggesting that successful political
leadership depends on knowledge of voters' preferences and
interests. Furthermore, the accuracy of legislators'
perceptions seems to be connected with the quality of
political representation (Miller and Stokes, 1963). Thus,
the success of political parties and their ability to
represent the citizenry depends on correctly perceiving
voter attitudes, beliefs and preferences, which can be seen
as a strategic goal.
- Figures and
- Figure 1. The Ideological Position of MPs and Voters
and MPs' Perceptions of Voter Position Portuguese
Citizens' Study, 2008 and Members of the Portuguese
Parliament Study, 2008.
- Figure 2. MPs Ideological Position, their Perception
of Voters' Positions, and Voters' Position Sources:
Portuguese Citizens' Study, 2008, and Members of the
Portuguese Parliament Study, 2008.
- Table 1. Model of variance and causality of
perceptual accuracy - variables categorization.
- Table 2. Explaining MPs' perceptual accuracy, OLS
- Table 3. MPs Estimates and Voter Positions (%) by
- Table A. Turnout and vote by political party in
parliamentary elections, 1991-2011 (%).
What is more, it appears we must take another explanatory
factor into account when examining MPs' perceptual accuracy
in a party mediated representation system. MPs' perceived
distance from voters and the distance between MPs'
perceptions and the median party perception proved to be
among the most significant variables in the expected
direction: the closer to the true or dominant party
position, the greater the level of accuracy. This suggests
that variance in perceptual accuracy in this kind of
electoral system should take the level of party integration
of MPs' into account. To consolidate these findings, we
clearly need more studies about the importance of electoral
systems, and MP-voter perceptual accuracy in particular, on
substantive policy issues.