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Centripetal and Centrifugal Incentives under Different Electoral Systems



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This is the pre peer reviewed version of the following article Centripetal and Centrifugal Incentives under Different Electoral Systems Ernesto Calvo Timothy Hellwig Forthcoming in the American Journal of Political Science Abstract In a seminal article Cox 1990 suggested that electoral systems with larger district magnitudes provide incentives for parties to advocate more extreme policy positions In this article we put this proposition to the test Informed by recent advances in spatial models of party competition we introduce a design that embeds the effect of electoral rules in the utility function of voters We then estimate the equilibrium location of parties as the weight voters attach to the expected distribution of seats and votes changes Our model predicts that electoral rules affect large and small parties in different ways We find centripetal effects only for parties that are favorably biased by electoral rules By contrast smaller parties see their vote share decline and are pushed toward more extreme equilibrium positions Evidence from thirteen parliamentary democracies supports model predictions Along with testing the incentives provided by electoral rules results carry implications for the strategies of vote maximizing parties and for the role of small parties in multiparty competition 1 Introduction1 Should parties change their policy goals under different electoral rules Since Downs 1957 first proposed a model of centripetal incentives for a two party system under plurality rule scholars have worked to extend equilibrium models of voting to multiparty settings Gary Cox s 1990 study marks the beginning of contemporary research on the topic and in many ways remains the most detailed exposition of the spatial incentives provided by electoral institutions Considering an almost exhaustive set of factors determining electoral rules including district magnitude aggregation formula and ballot structure Cox made predictions linking electoral laws to parties



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