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About the Study

This page provides an overview of the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) program and website in English. It offers information on each of the study modules and how to obtain the data.

The Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) is a collaborative program of research among election study teams from around the world. Participating countries and provinces include a common module of survey questions in their post-election studies. The resulting data are deposited along with voting, demographic, district and macro/electoral system variables. The studies are then merged into a single, free, public dataset for use in comparative study and cross-level analysis.

The research agenda, questionnaires, and study design are developed by an international committee of leading scholars of electoral politics, political science, and survey research. The design is then implemented in each country and province by their foremost social scientists. Information on how the committee decided on each research agenda is available in the Planning Committee section of the CSES website.

The data and documentation for each study module is available in the Data Center section. The data for each module is offered in CSV, R, SAS, Stata, and SPSS file formats. Furthermore, for each country’s election study we provide the questionnaire, macro report and study design report.

Following is a description of each of the CSES modules:

CSES Module 1 (1996-2001) 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.

CSES Module 2 (2001-2006) focused on representation and accountability via three key theoretical questions. First, it examined the contrasting views of the logic of elections – to what extent are elections a mechanism to hold government accountable, as opposed to a means to ensure that citizens’ views are properly represented in the democratic process? Second, the module added a new set of items on citizen engagement and cognition across democratic polities. Third, the module expanded the analyses of the first module to examine how voters’ choices are affected by the institutional context within which those choices are made.

CSES Module 3 (2006-2011) focused on voters’ perceptions of, assessments of, and responses to the variety and quality of political choices in an election. The module asks to what degree political systems provide contestation between meaningful alternatives and how integrative is the structure of electoral competition. Voters’ understanding of the set of electoral choices they face is a central concern. The module enables scholars to ask how voters distinguish the parties, how contextual conditions enhance the degree to and ease with which they can make these distinctions, and the relative weights of different kinds of distinctions in shaping voting behavior in those varying contexts.

CSES Module 4 (2011-2016) focused on distributional politics and social protection. The goal of the module is to enhance knowledge of voter preferences for policies that affect income and wealth distribution, in a period of constrained growth, deficit reduction, and expenditure constraint and austerity. It draws upon the literature in comparative political economy and develops data that will enable scholars to understand how political institutions condition voters’ reactions to the politics of budgetary restraint. The module is influenced by the economic crises of the years prior to its implementation. Also included in the module is a battery of questions about mobilization – asking respondents about contacts by parties and candidates, and about personal contacts intended to influence vote choice.

CSES Module 5 (2016-2021) focuses on the politics of populism. It explores the relationship between the rise of populist parties and the distribution of populist attitudes cross-nationally. The main objective of the module is to examine citizens’ perceptions of political elites, ‘out-groups’ and national identity, and the implications for electoral democracy. The module enables researchers to account for variation in the contestation of political elites and ‘populist’ attitudes across democracies and to examine how such perceptions shape citizens electoral behavior.

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