Public Choice

, Volume 154, Issue 1–2, pp 139–148 | Cite as

District magnitude and representation of the majority’s preferences: a comment and reinterpretation

  • John M. Carey
  • Simon Hix


Drawing on new data that combine recorded votes from the Swiss National Assembly with canton-level referendum results on identical legislative proposals, Portmann et al. (Public Choice 151:585–610, 2012) develop an innovative strategy to identify the effect of district magnitude on the relationship between representatives and their constituents. We replicate PSE’s central result and also estimate a related model that allows for the possibility of non-monotonicity in the relationship between district magnitude and representatives’ deviance from referendum median voters. Our results indicate that representatives elected in low-magnitude multi-member districts deviate from canton-level majorities less than either MPs from single-member districts or those from high-magnitude multi-member districts.


Representation Electoral systems District magnitude Switzerland 



The authors want to express their sincere gratitude to Portmann, Stadelmann, and Eichenberger for their immediate willingness to share data, and for their engagement in a productive exchange of ideas about their research.


  1. Auth, P. (2006). De un sistema proporcional excluyente a uno incluyente. Mimeo (pp. 1–21). Santiago: Fundacion Chile. Google Scholar
  2. Baddeley, A. (1994). The magical number 7—still magic after all these years. Psychological Review, 101(2), 353–356. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Carey, J. M., & Hix, S. (2011). The electoral sweet spot: low-magnitude proportional electoral systems. American Journal of Political Science, 55(2), 383–397. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chang, E. C. C. (2008). Electoral incentives and budgetary spending: rethinking the role of political institutions. The Journal of Politics, 70(4), 1086–1097. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chang, E. C. C. & Golden, M. (2007). Electoral systems, district magnitude and corruption. British Journal of Political Science, 37, 115–137. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chang, E. C. C., Kayser, M. A., Linzer, D. A., & Rogowski, R. (2011). Electoral systems and the balance of Consumer-producer power. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Google Scholar
  7. Cox, G. W. (1987). Electoral equilibria under alternative voting institutions. American Journal of Political Science, 31, 82–108. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cox, G. W. (1990). Centripetal and centrifugal incentives in electoral systems. American Journal of Political Science, 34, 903–935. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cox, G. W. (1997). Making votes count: strategic coordination in the world’s electoral systems. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Denzau, A., Kats, A., & Slutsky, S. (1985). Multi-agent equilibria with market share and ranking objectives. Social Choice and Welfare, 2, 95–117. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gagliarducci, S., Nannicini, T., & Naticchioni, P. (2011). Electoral rules and politicians’ behavior: a micro test. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 3(3), 144–174. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Golden, M. A., & Picci, L. (2008). Pork-barrel politics in postwar Italy, 1953–1994. American Journal of Political Science, 52(2), 268–289. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hallerberg, M., & Marier, P. (2004). Executive authority, the personal vote, and budget discipline in Latin American and Caribbean countries. American Journal of Political Science, 48(3), 571–587. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Huber, J. D., & Powell, G. B. Jr. (1994). Congruence between citizens and policymakers in two visions of liberal democracy. World Politics, 46(3), 291–326. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Iversen, T., & Soskice, D. (2006). Electoral institutions and the politics of coalitions: why some democracies redistribute more than others. American Political Science Review, 100(2), 165–181. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Lizzeri, A., & Persico, N. (2001). The provision of public goods under alternative electoral incentives. American Economic Review, 91(1), 225–239. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Miller, G. A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review, 63, 81–97. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Moser, R. G., & Scheiner, E. (2012). Electoral systems and political context: how electoral systems differ in new and established democracies. New York: Cambridge University Press. Google Scholar
  19. Nohlen, D. (2006). La reforma del sistema binominal desde una perspectiva comparada. Revista de Ciência Política, 26, 191–202. Google Scholar
  20. Park, J. H., & Jensen, N. (2007). Electoral competition and agricultural support in OECD countries. American Journal of Political Science, 51(2), 314–329. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Persson, T., & Tabellini, G. (2003). The economic effects of constitutions. Cambridge: MIT Press. Google Scholar
  22. Portmann, M., Stadelmann, D., & Eichenberger, R. (2012). District magnitude and representation of the majority’s preferences: evidence from popular and parliamentary votes. Public Choice, 151, 585–610. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Powell, G. B., & Vanberg, G. (2000). Election laws, disproportionality and median correspondence: implications for two visions of democracy. British Journal of Political Science, 30(3), 383–411. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Primo, D. M., & Snyder, J. M. Jr. (2010). Party strength, the personal vote, and government spending. American Journal of Political Science, 54(2), 354–370. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Shocket, P. A., Heighberger, N. R., & Brown, C. (1992). The effect of voting technology on voting behavior in a simulated multi-candidate city council election: a political experiment of ballot transparency. The Western Political Quarterly, 45(2), 521–537. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Taagepera, R., & Shugart, M. (1989). Seats and votes: the effects and determinants of electoral systems. New Haven: Yale University Press. Google Scholar
  27. Tomz, M., Wittenberg, J., & King, G. (2003). Clarify: Software for interpreting and presenting statistical results. Public domain software available at: http://GKing.Harvard.Edu.
  28. Wright, J. (2010). Aid effectiveness and the politics of personalism. Comparative Political Studies, 43(6), 735–762. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA
  2. 2.London School of EconomicsLondonUK

Personalised recommendations