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About CSES

The Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) is a collaborative program of cross-national research among election studies conducted in over fifty states. The CSES is composed of three tightly linked parts: First, a common module of public opinion survey questions is included in each participant country's post-election study. These "micro" level data include vote choice, candidate and party evaluations, current and retrospective economic evaluations, evaluation of the electoral system itself, in addition to standardized sociodemographic measures. Second, district level data are reported for each respondent, including electoral returns, turnout, and the number of candidates. Finally, system or "macro" level data report aggregate electoral returns, electoral rules and formulas, and regime characteristics. This design allows researchers to conduct cross-level, as well as cross-national analyses, addressing the effects of electoral institutions on citizens' attitudes and behavior, the presence and nature of social and political cleavages, and the evaluation of democratic institutions across different political regimes.

The CSES is unique among comparative post-electoral studies because of the extent of cross-national collaboration at all stages of the project: The research agenda, the survey instrument, and the study design are developed by the CSES Planning Committee, whose members include leading scholars of electoral politics from around the world. This design is then implemented in each country by that country's foremost social scientists, as part of their national post-election studies. The survey component of Module 1 was carried in over 30 such projects, in a remarkably diverse sample of states.

The initial round of collaboration focused on three general themes: the impact of electoral institutions on citizens' political cognition and behavior (parliamentary versus presidential systems of government, the electoral rules that govern the casting and counting of ballots; and political parties); the nature of political and social cleavages and alignments; and the evaluation of democratic institution and processes. Collaborators have participated broadly in setting the study's substantive agenda, specifying the questionnaire module, and in specifying the demographic and macro-level data to be collected.

The key theoretical question to be addressed by the second module is the contrast between the view that elections are a mechanism to hold government accountable and the view that they are a means to ensure that citizens' views and interests are properly represented in the democratic process. It is intended to explore how far this contrast and its embodiment in institutional structures influences vote choice and satisfaction with democracy.

Other Comparative Projects

Comparative research is an important and expanding field with many exciting opportunities for analysts. You may be interested in learning about other such projects, and so we list some of them for you here.