The association between attitudes and political representation under different electoral systems

It’s been a while since Maria Sobolewska suggested to me, that perhaps the association between public attitudes and political representation may be different under different electoral systems (PR versus majoritarian). The intuition here is that institutions always work in a particular context. To some extent, my work acknowledged this by leaving out unfree countries because the expected dynamics are different — but there indeed is more to it.

I have shown that there is a strong association between positive attitudes to minorities and the inclusion of minorities in political offices.

If we look at the interaction between attitudes and electoral system, we find that this association is much stronger under majoritarian/MMM systems. Although I’m not sure that we should read much into the blue line here (PR/MMP systems) because the ethnic representation score does not vary that much.

At the same time, looking at gender representation, we find a strong association between attitudes in the population and gender representation scores.

Maybe someone wants to dig deeper here? Possibly a consideration of why PR systems may be good for minorities could complement this.

Ruedin, Didier. 2009. “Ethnic Group Representation in a Cross-National Comparison.” The Journal of Legislative Studies 15(4):335–54. doi: 10.1080/13572330903302448.

Ruedin, Didier. 2012. “The Representation of Women in National Parliaments: A Cross-National Comparison.” European Sociological Review 28(1):96–109. doi: 10.1093/esr/jcq050.

Ruedin, Didier. 2013. Why Aren’t They There? The Political Representation of Women, Ethnic Groups and Issue Positions in Legislatures. Colchester: ECPR Press.

Ruedin, Didier. 2020. “Ethnic and Regional Minorities.” Pp. 211–28 in Handbook of Political Representation in Liberal Democracies, edited by R. Rohrschneider and J. J. Thomassen. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The Proportion of Women in National Parliament as a Measure of Women’s Status in Society

In 2009, I examined the proportion of women in national parliaments as a measure of women’s status in society. Apparently, we get link rot here, too.

Representation in decision-making (i.e. the share of women in national legislatures) is often used as an indicator of the wider integration of women in political and everyday life. This research note examines whether the proportion of women in national parliament really can be regarded as a measure of women’s status in society. I argue — based on correlations and a scatter plot — that the proportion of women in parliament is a reasonably good indicator of status, with the benefit of being based on readily available data.

Working paper: Ruedin 2009 Status Working Paper

Ruedin, Didier. 2009. ‘The Proportion of Women in National Parliament as a Measure of Women’s Status in Society’. Oxford Sociology Working Papers 2009-05.

What is the claim to representation for immigrants?

When we discuss the claim to political representation, we normally do not differentiate between the executive and the legislative (and the judicative). Looking at the claim to representation for immigrants, I believe that perhaps we should. There’s some tension between citizenship as an exclusive right and ‘no taxation without representation’. Interestingly, in many places immigrants can now vote at the local level, and the literature seems to focus on this extension of rights rather than the ability to access full political rights via citizenship.

Here is a possible approach. We could argue that the claim to representation in the executive may be restricted to citizens, while the legislative should be opened to the entire resident population (irrespective of citizenship). Opening the legislative could be defended by deliberation in the chamber(s) and the aforementioned principle of ‘no taxation without representation’. Neither of these requires access to the decision-making in the executive, which could be retained as an exclusive right. Put differently, we would focus on the legislative as law-makers, and then argue that everyone affected should have a possibility in shaping the rules that affect them (i.e. the entire resident population). Citizens, with a stronger claim to the in-group will then decide how to put these rules into place. Not fogetting the judicative, is it the judicative that should be restricted to citizens?

Irrespective of these, I never understood giving access at the local level, though. If non-citizens should have a right to participate because they are affected by the rules of the game, then shouldn’t they be allowed to participate (and be represented) at any level? Let’s throw in trustees and delegates to the mix, and the impossibility of future generations to represent themselves, and nothing seems that clear anymore…

Ruedin, Didier. 2013. Why Aren’t They There? The Political Representation of Women, Ethnic Groups and Issue Positions in Legislatures. Colchester: ECPR Press.

Ruedin, Didier. 2018. ‘Participation in Local Elections: “Why Don’t Immigrants Vote More?”’ Parliamentary Affairs 71 (2): 243–262. https://doi.org/10.1093/pa/gsx024.

Call – Scientific Collaborator at the University of Neuchâtel 0.7 FTE (29.5 hours per week), 2 years

We’re hiring! Come and join us at the University of Neuchâtel:

Call for Application – Scientific Collaborator at the Swiss Forum for Migration and Population Studies, University of Neuchâtel
0.7 FTE (29.5 hours per week)

Two years appointment

The Swiss Forum for Migration and Population Studies intends to appoint one scientific collaborator. Potential candidates must hold a MA degree in Political Science, Sociology, Migration Studies, or a related discipline, and excel in research.

The research component of this position are part a SNSF project on explaining naturalized citizens’ political engagement. The project wants to analyze the political preferences of naturalized citizens, the drivers to become active participants in left and right wing parties and how they make sense of their background with regard to the party’s discourses. This will be measured based on content analyses and biographical interviews.

https://druedin.com/vacancies

Limits of Descriptive Representation

There are many benefits of including minorities of power in decision-making — so-called descriptive representation. This is the case for women who remain numerically under-represented in legislatures around the world, but also ethnic minority groups, and other minorities.

There are, however, practical limitations to including different groups and subgroups in legislatures. Goodin (2004) highlights that there is a tension between including members from different groups and subgroups on the one hand, and the practical ability to debate in the legislature – thus rob them of the possibility of substantively represent their particular subgroup. Goodin highlights that legislatures and governments need not include all groups and subgroups in society to represent the fact of diversity. While this observation highlights why it is impossible to include every subgroup all the time, it should not distract from the need of including ethnic and regional minorities in processes of decision-making, and certainly not be seen as a licence to exclude large groups of society.

It might be helpful to take a longer-term perspective here: rather than focusing on the absence of particular (small) groups in society in any given legislature, focus on persistent exclusion over several legislatures. And bear in mind that representatives act on behalf of groups not directly included in decision-making — so we should also focus on the representation of interests (though this is much harder to do than simply counting, of course).

Goodin, R. 2004. «Representing Diversity». British Journal of Political Science 34 (3): 453–68. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007123404000134.
Ruedin, Didier. 2013. Why Aren’t They There? The Political Representation of Women, Ethnic Groups and Issue Positions in Legislatures. Colchester: ECPR Press.

Image: CC-by-nc by Guilherme Sales