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CfP Comparative perspectives on electoral behaviour

Dear colleagues,

We would like to invite you to submit paper proposals for a workshop on 'Comparative perspectives on electoral behaviour', organized by the Centre for Citizenship and Democracy (University of Leuven) at the Belgian Academy in Rome (16-18 September 2015).


It is commonly assumed that electoral behaviour is strongly affected by the institutional context in which citizens are embedded. Electoral rules, what options voters have and how clear and stable the choice set is – all these elements are thought to affect whether or not citizens turn out to vote on Election Day and what choice they make. At a macro level, there are indeed clear indications of a significant impact of contextual factors on voting behaviour. To cite but one example: it seems clear that voter turnout is higher in countries with proportional representation. Furthermore, it has been shown that a higher degree of political responsibility strengthens the link between economic conditions and incumbents’ vote shares.

While this aggregate-level evidence is strong, our understanding of how electoral rules and party systems affect electoral behaviour is still limited. Two important gaps in the literature remain. First, even though such aggregate-level patterns are regularly found, evidence on the explanatory mechanisms of those macro-findings is missing. Second, comparative studies investigating the impact of contextual factors by means of individual-level data do not seem to corroborate the macro-level evidence. This observation has lead Thomassen (2014: 19) to conclude that “political institutions are less relevant for people’s attitudes and behaviour than often presumed”. Lacking sound evidence of a direct impact of electoral rules or party systems on voters’ behaviour, scholars have recently started to investigate the indirect or moderated effects of contextual factors. The aim of this workshop is to address this research question: what is the evidence of the effect of country level characteristics on the relation between individual variables and electoral behaviour?

Papers and format:

This conference aims to bring together research addressing these important gaps in the literature. To this end, we welcome both aggregate-level as well as individual-level studies shedding light on how exactly electoral rules and party systems affect voters’ attitudes and behaviour. The conference will take the format of a workshop, with ample room for discussion of a selective number of papers. Confirmed keynote speakers for the workshop include André Blais (Université de Montréal), Paolo Bellucci (Università degli Studi di Siena), Patrizia Cattellani (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milano), Bernard Grofman (University of California, Irvine) and Michael S. Lewis-Beck (University of Iowa). We welcome both senior as well as junior scholars to submit abstract proposals for the workshop and to take part in the discussions. The aim is that a selection of the papers will be published in a special journal issue.

How to Apply:

We invite those interested in participating to the workshop to submit paper proposals (max. 500 words) before 1 May 2015 via email to The final program will be communicated by 15 May 2015. Participants are required to circulate their full papers before 1 September 2015 to allow for a meaningful discussion at the conference.