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Carey and Shugart: Incentives to cultivate a personal vote

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Carey and Shugart. 1995. Incentives to cultivate a personal vote. Electoral studies 14 (4): 417-439.

In Brief:

Electoral systems vary in the incentives they provide for politicians to cultivate a "personal vote"- a personal (rather than party) reputation. The personal vote matters in the provision of particularlistic goods (generally high personal vote, high pork) and has implications for party discipline, representation and accountability (but see Desposato's work). Generally, SMD systems and open list PR systems are more personal. The effect of district magnitude diverges between open and closed list PR; in open lists higher M leads to more personal vote, in closed lists higher M decreases the incentive for the personal vote.

Research Question:

What electoral formulas create the greatest incentive to cultivate a personal vote?




High Personal Vote System Characteristics:

  1. Leaders do not control access to ballots, or rank; 2) votes are not pooled; and 3) voters cast a single vote below the party level. Result: the greatest incentives for a personal vote and this incentive increases with district magnitude.

Low Personal Vote Systems Characteristics:

  1. closed list nomination; 2) pooled votes across the whole party; 3) voters cast a single vote for one party. Result: the lowest incentives for a personal vote and this incentive decreases as magnitude grows larger. (See table, p. 425 and graph, p 431)

The effect of district magnitude differs in open versus closed list systems

In open list systems, increasing district magnitude increases the incentive for a personal vote. In closed list systems, increasing district magnitude decreases the incentive for a personal vote.

Other factors that may influence personal vote:

Ordinal Ranking of Electoral Systems

Carey and Shugart present a complete ordinal ranking of electoral systems, from most party-centered to most candidate-centered.

  1. Closed list formula with one round. Parties present fixed ballots and voters are allowed a single opportunity to choose among parties. The value of personal reputation to a politician is driven entirely by M and is lowest when M=1.
    • Examples: Systems with M=1 (one candidate per party per district with party leaders determining who that candidate is) include Britain and Mexico (605 of LH legislative seats). Systems in which M>1 include closed-list PR systems, such as Israel and Spain.
  2. Closed list formula with two rounds. Ballots are fixed by parties and pooling takes place across parties, this implies a multiple round electoral system. This type of system allows multiple votes. The value of personal reputation increases because the fractionalization of party systems that run-off generates.
    • Examples: for SMDs, France is the best example.
  3. Open list formula with multiple votes. Leaders compose the list, but voters can prefer one candidate over others. Thus candidates can improve their electoral chances by attracting personal votes, even at the expense of others on their party's list. The fact that voters are allowed multiple votes (usually less than M) means that candidates of a given party can run as a bloc, and so voters are not forced to identify one candidate as preferred above another.
    • Example: Italy before 1993
  4. Single Transferable vote with party endorsements. Pooling takes place below the party level (among candidates, not parties) which means that members of that party not necessarily benefit whenever a vote is cast for one of their party's candidates. Voters are asked a rank ordering of preferences. This system is known as STV formula: voters cast ordinal preference votes for multiple candidates... but they elect just one). Surplus votes, and those that are cast for losing candidates, are transferred to lower-ranked candidates who are still in contention for a seat.
    • Examples: In SMD, this formula is called Alternative vote (or in Australia, majority-preferential). Under this formula candidates can run as a bloc, appealing to voters to cast second and third preferences for co-partisans.
  5. Open list single vote. Voters cast a single vote below the party level either for a candidate or for a factional list. The value of personal reputation increases because candidates cannot run as teams. Each candidate stands alone in the quest for each voter's single vote. However, political party matters because votes for any candidate or list increase the party's overall vote; and because parties determine who run under their labels.
    • Examples: In MMD, Chile, Poland (where voters vote for candidates); Uruguay (where voters vote for lists). In SMD, this system is applied for presidential elections in Uruguay (known as "double simultaneous vote": voters vote for a candidate and the winner is determined as the candidates with the most votes within the party that receive the most votes)
  6. Plurality formula with party endorsement and candidate voting. No vote pooling of any kind. Each candidateメs chances of election hinge on his personal reputation. Parties control de use of their labels. If M>1 and voters have M votes, the system is known as multimember-district plurality (or bloc vote). If the voter has fewer than M votes but more than one it is a "limited vote". Included in this category is the system where voters can concentrate more than one of their votes on one candidate (Cumulative voting). Finally, if this formula is used in a SMD, it is known as approval vote.
    • No empirical examples.
  7. Open list formula with open endorsement and multiple votes. Party leadership control over access to party lists is absent, thus leaders are unable to coerce politicians into cooperating to maintain partyメs reputation.
    • No empirical examples.
  8. Single transferable votes. Open endorsements. Votes are pooled at the level of candidates who receive preference votes. Candidates gain access to the ballot on the basis of their own entrepreneurial activity. Voters cast ordinal votes with excess of votes transferred to other candidates. Party label means as a cue for voters.
    • No empirical examples.
  9. Open list formula with open endorsement and single vote. Party leaders do not control endorsement and voters cast a single (indivisible) vote below the party level. Party reputation is valuable just because votes are still pooled across all lists or candidates from the party.
    • Examples: (1) Finland: Candidates must collect signatures to get access to the ballot. Candidates usually form alliances. As a result, multiple alliances (lists) have appeared within the same party. (2) Brazilian system (until this year) approximates this configuration because once a politician was elected under a party label, he could not be denied access to the party list in subsequent elections (candidate nato).
  10. Plurality formula with one endorsement and candidate voting. Party leaders do not control endorsement, there is no vote pooling and there are multiple votes.
    • Example: Primaries in US in nearly all the states: a multiple candidates at the first round, and then the top two candidates.
  11. Single non-transferable vote. Party endorsement. There is no vote pooling and no chances that more than one candidate can share support form the same voter. The only incentive to maintain party reputation is that parties can deny nomination (to candidates whose practices undermine party reputation). Outcome: highly factionalized political parties. Thre is no equivalent for SMD.
    • Examples: Japan before 1993; Taiwan
  12. Personal list formula. Party leaders do not control endorsement. Some pooling at the sub-party level (among candidates) is allowed within the individual lists that compete within a party. Each list is headed by a candidate who need not have received party endorsement to use the party label.
    • Examples: Colombia (known as personal list system)
  13. Single nontransferable vote. Open endorsement. Party leaders do not control endorsement. No vote pooling and no chances that more than one candidate can share support form the same voter. Any politician can run under any party label.
    • Examples: Philippines is an example of this variant of SNTV in SMD: the plurality systems in which parties do not control endorsement and thus multiple candidates may compete under the same party label.

Research by the same authors

Research on similar subjects


Carey, John (author)Shugart, Matthew (author)Political ScienceComparative PoliticsClientelismElectionsElectoral Rules

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