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Open Access Voting for Parties or for Candidates? The Trade-Off Between Party and Personal Representation in Spanish Regional and Local Elections

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When voters cast their ballot, are they choosing a candidate or a party? Electoral systems have a significant impact on how this question is answered in each country. As previous literature has shown, some electoral rules foster a more personal representation, while others strengthen the intermediary role of parties. In this paper I maintain that there exists a trade-off between these two types of representation. To empirically verify its existence and how it works, I have chosen local and regional elections in Spain as a case study. Given that they take place simultaneously under similar electoral systems, they can be considered a natural experiment for the study of this trade-off, which allows me to overcome the potential problems of endogeneity present in previous studies. By measuring the significance of ideological closeness and candidate evaluations in voters' decisions at each level, it is shown that the importance of personal representation increases in local elections at the expense of a less frequent use of ideological proximity as an informational shortcut, thus confirming the existence of the trade-off.

Cuando los electores emiten su voto, ¿están eligiendo un candidato o un partido? Los sistemas electorales ejercen un impacto significativo en cómo esta cuestión es resuelta en cada país. Tal y como estudios anteriores han demostrado, algunos de ellos fomentan una representación más personal, mientras que otros contribuyen a reforzar el papel intermediador de los partidos. En este artículo defiendo que existe un trade-off entre estos dos tipos de representación. Para contrastar empíricamente su existencia y funcionamiento, selecciono como caso de estudio las elecciones autonómicas y locales en España. Dado que tienen lugar de manera simultánea y bajo sistemas electorales similares, pueden ser consideradas un experimento natural para el estudio de este trade-off, lo cual hace posible superar los problemas de endogeneidad presentes en estudios anteriores. Mediante una estimación de la significación de la proximidad ideológica y las evaluaciones de los candidatos en las decisiones de voto a cada nivel, se demuestra que la importancia de la representación personal se incrementa en las elecciones locales, a expensas de un uso menos frecuente de la proximidad ideológica como atajo informativo, confirmándose así la existencia del trade-off.

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Keywords: Candidates; Candidatos; Comportamiento Electoral; Electoral Behavior; Electoral Systems; Ideology; Ideología; Political Representation; Representación Política; Sistemas Electorales

Language: English

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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  • Revista Española de Investigaciones Sociológicas (REIS) is a quarterly publication of the Center for Sociological Research (Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas - CIS), and constitutes one of the main editorial activities of CIS. REIS was first published in 1978, with the main goal of disseminating the results of sociological research aiming at a better understanding of the Spanish society. Its historic course and the high level of quality demanded on its contributions has situated REIS in an outstanding position as a reference journal in the area of the Social Sciences. The journal covers a wide range of topics in the field of Sociology and Political Science in general.

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