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Norris: Electoral engineering

Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I say who wrote them.

Norris. 2004. Electoral engineering: Voting rules and political behavior. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Norris wants to know the effect of X (electoral systems) on Y (cleavage politics).


Cleavage politics. Will a party continue to pander to a narrow base (e.g. labor) or try to expand and become a catch-all party (e.g. Labour)?


  1. (rational choice): In majoritarian countries, parties will seek to become catch-all parties, but in proportional systes, parties can safely stick to a narrow base. Thus: more cleavage politics in proportional systems.
  2. (cultural modernization): It's not electoral rules that matter, it's the underlying cultural changes. Cleavage politics will be weak in postindustrial societies where social class and religion have less influence. Thus, cleavage politics declines with socioeconomic and human development.


The rational choice hypothesis wins.


This is, at heart, a time-series thesis, but it uses only cross-sectional data.

Research by the same authors

Research on similar subjects


Norris, Pippa (author)American PoliticsSocial CleavagesRational ChoiceElectionsElectoral RulesState Politics (U.S.)Political Subcultures

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