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Title: Political representation in different electoral settings : measuring issue congruence with VAA-generated data
Author: Popp, Raluca-Florica
ISNI:       0000 0004 7653 5204
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2018
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The long line of representation studies posits that proportional representation systems, with larger electoral districts, have a representational advantage over majoritarian systems. However, over the last decade, scholars have challenged this longstanding nding (Blais & Bodet 2006, Golder & Stramski 2007). Additionally, Golder & Stramski (2007) initiated a debate over the conceptualization and measurement of congruence, arguing that the most common practice of assessing congruence is flawed. They call for an improved measure of congruence. In the light of this recent debates, the purpose of this thesis is to inspect the relationship between institutional designs and political representation in the European context, using Voting Advice Application generated data. Three main research questions are explored. The first question relates to institutional designs such as district magnitude, and electoral system characteristics such as disproportionality or polarization, investigating the conditions necessary for a country to present high levels of congruence between its citizens and their representatives. Looking at party level characteristics, I will investigate what are the effects of niche party status and governmental status on issue congruence in European democracies? Last but not least, what is the role of individual characteristics? These questions will be addressed by studying the impact of different features of electoral systems, party and individual characteristics have on political representation conceptualized as issue congruence. Congruence is measured as the degree of matching of the common policy preferences of citizens and parties as indicated by the Voting Advice Applications EU Pro filer 2009 and EUvox 2014. The present work contributes to the stream of research on political representation understood as congruence. The strength of this work lays in its comparative approach, and the use of VAA generated data to measure congruence. While most of the studies on political representation using congruence focus on the Left-Right dimension, this thesis uses the concept of issue congruence. Based on the 28 common statements of the VAA tool, the measure of congruence is metric-free, allowing for cross-country comparisons. Although there is a wide range of research on the effects of electoral systems on political representation, most of these studies are limited in their use of comparative approaches. The lack of extensive comparative research on issue congruence is due to insufficient data. The 2009 EU Profi ler and 2014 EUvox address this issue, providing the necessary framework for testing the predictors of congruence at a system, party and individual level. Political representation can be operationalized through congruence, as the distance between the citizen and the representative (Huber & Powell 1994, Powell 2004). Issue congruence is the correspondence between party electorates and their representatives across a set of salient policy dimensions (Powell 2004). VAA generated data provides a new means of measuring congruence. I propose two new measures of congruence, based on the distance between the citizen and the party the citizen intends to vote for. Unlike other comparative studies that measure congruence with the help of the Left-Right scale, the present work focuses on issue policies. Issue congruence is the outcome of the match between the citizen and the party she intends to vote for on a series of 28 and 22 political statements. Additionally, the focus on issue congruence is important because issue representation is mostly inferred from the alternative interpretations of congruence. The measures of issue congruence therefore contribute to a better understanding of political representation in the EU political space, tackling the recurrent crisis of representation.
Supervisor: Banducci, Susan ; Coan, Travis Sponsor: European Commission
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: political representation ; issue congruence ; Voting Advice Applications