Pippa Norris New book "Electoral Engineering" Cambridge University Press 2004
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Electoral Engineering

Voting Rules and Political behavior

Pippa Norris

Book published Spring 2004 CUP | 392 pages 24 line diagrams 24 tables | ISBN: 0521536715 Paperback $26 Hardback $70


 From Kosovo to Kabul, the last decade witnessed growing interest in ‘electoral engineering’. Reformers have sought to achieve either greater government accountability through majoritarian arrangements or wider parliamentary diversity through proportional formula. Underlying the normative debates are important claims about the impact and consequences of electoral reform for political representation and voting behavior. This study compares and evaluates two broad schools of thought, each offering contrasting expectations. One popular approach claims that formal rules define the electoral incentives facing parties, politicians, and citizens. By changing the rules, rational choice institutionalism claims that we have the capacity to shape political behavior among politicians and citizens. Reformers believe that electoral engineering can solve multiple social problems, whether by mitigating ethnic conflict, strengthening voter-party bonds, generating democratic accountability, or boosting women’s representation. Alternative cultural modernization theories differ in their emphasis on the primary motors driving human behavior, their expectations about the pace of change, and also their assumptions about the ability of formal institutional rules to alter, rather than adapt to, deeply embedded and habitual social norms and patterns of human behavior.

            To consider these issues, this book compares the consequences of electoral rules and cultural modernization for many dimensions of political representation and voting behavior, including patterns of party competition, the strength of social cleavages and party loyalties, levels of turnout, the gender and ethnic diversity of parliaments, and the provision of constituency service. Systematic evidence is drawn the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems based on surveys of parliamentary and presidential contests held in over thirty countries. The study covers elections held from 1996 to 2002 in newer and established democracies ranging from the United States, Australia and Switzerland to Peru, Taiwan and Ukraine.  The book concludes that formal rules do matter, with the social cleavages and partisan identities of voters, and the diversity and behavior of elected representatives, shaped by the incentives generated by majoritarian, combined, and proportional electoral systems.


"Like earlier books by this prolific author, this book is a masterpiece of synthesis, original theorizing, and empirical analysis of an impressively large number and variety of cases. Pippa Norris has a great ability to deal with big subjects in a very creative way." Arend Lijphart, University of California, San Diego

"This book looks at public opinion data linking attitudes, party choices, and electoral systems in ways that the game theory literature usually fails to come to grips with. It is a major contribution to the electoral systems literature and to the comparative politics literature in general." Bernard Grofman, University of California, Irvine

"In this highly innovative book, Pippa Norris combines institutional and survey data from 32 widely different countries to assess the possibilities and limitations of implanting democracy through institutional engineering. As the international community increasingly tries to remake political systems from Albania to Zimbabwe, this study will be an important touchstone for policy-makers and analysts alike." Richard S. Katz, The Johns Hopkins University

"Norris is one of only a small handful of political scientists who could meet the ambitions of a study such as this, and she has done it with her usual aplomb!" David Farrell, University of Manchester



List of tables and figures


1.                   Do rules matter?

2.                   Comparing electoral systems 

3.           Evaluating electoral systems

The consequences for voting behavior

4.                   Party systems 

5.                   Social cleavages

6.                   Party loyalties

7.                   Turnout

The consequences for political representation

8.                   Women  

9.                   Ethnic minorities  

10.                Constituency service 



11.                The impact of electoral engineering 

Select Bibliography


Copyright 2004 Pippa Norris, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge MA 02138. www.pippanorris.co

Last updated 12/06/2009