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Publications

Best, Robin E. "The Long and the Short of It: Electoral Laws and the Dynamics of Party System Size in Western Democracies, 1950-2005." Forthcoming in the European Journal of Political Research.

Best, Robin E. Ian Budge, and Michael D. McDonald. "Representation as a Median Mandate versus Bilateralism: Taking a Cross-National Perspective" With Michael D. McDonald and Ian Budge. Forthcoming in the European Journal of Political Research.

McDonald, Michael D., Ian Budge, and Robin E. Best. "Electoral Majoritarianism and Collective Representation: Who is Authorized to Be Represented?" Forthcoming in Comparative Political Studies.

Best, Robin E. "The Declining Electoral Relevance of Traditional Cleavage Groups." Forthcoming in the European Political Science Review.

Best, Robin E., and Steve B. Lem. "Electoral Volatility, Competition, and Third Party Candidacies in US Gubernatorial Elections." Forthcoming in Party Politics.

Best, Robin E. and Michael D. McDonald. 2011. "The Role of Party Policy Positions in the Operation of Democracy." In Christopher J. Anderson and Russell J. Dalton (eds.) Citizens, Context, and Choice: How Institutional Structures Shape Citizen Behavior. New York: Oxford University Press.

Best, Robin E. 2010. "Increasing Irrationality? The Equilibrium Relationship between Electoral and Legislative Party System Size, 1950–2005." Electoral Studies, 29(1): 105-116.

McDonald, Michael D., and Robin Best. 2006. "Equilibria and Restoring Forces in Models of Vote Dynamics" Political Analysis, 14(4): 369-392.

Working Papers

"In Search of Limits to Democratic Representation with Divergent Parties."
With Michael D. McDonald, Aida Paskeviciute, and Rachel Cremona.

Abstract: Although the convergence thesis of party policy position taking has been stamped a 'dead letter' in previous research on democratic representation, this paper argues that the thesis need not be put wholesale on the shelf. We resurrect it in partial and varied form as it applies to two-party systems in order to examine how far its key features can be pushed before the prospects for accurate representation break down. Focusing on the degree of party divergence, symmetry of party distances from the median voter, party tendencies to track median voter positions, and voter tendencies to choose parties with policy deterministic or multiple motivations, our computer simulations-based analyses show that as long as democratic policy making is slow-paced and at least loosely tracks median voter positions, a democracy runs little risk of breaching the boundaries of accurate representation that could send policy making seriously off track in relation to voters' policy preferences.


"Do Voters Have a Choice? Establishment-Party Policy Positions and Support for Non-Establishment Parties in 13 Advanced Industrialized Democracies"

Abstract: How do the policy positions of establishment-parties affect support for non-establishment-parties? Low levels of polarization among establishment-parties are expected to encourage support for non-establishment-parties by (1) generating protest votes against establishment-party positions that have become too similar and (2) creating ideological space for non-establishment-parties to capture sincere votes. These expectations are tested using individual-level data from Module 2 of the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems. The results indicate that, as expected, low levels of polarization among establishment-parties increase the likelihood of non-establishment-party support. This effect intensifies for two types of voters: those on the extremes of the ideological spectrum and those who are ideologically closest to a non-establishment-party.


"Electoral Volatility, Competition, and Third Party Participation in SMD-P Electoral Systems"
With Conor M. Dowling and Steve B. Lem

Abstract: Despite the restrictiveness of the electoral system, minor party candidates commonly contest elections under single-member-district plurality electoral rules. Moreover, the vote share gained by these candidates has often grown in recent decades. These findings stand in stark contrast to institutional theories of party system size. In this paper, we examine the incentives for minor party candidates to contest elections under conditions of electoral uncertainty (i.e., electoral competition and electoral volatility). Our results from analysis of district-level legislative electoral returns for Canada, the U.K., and the U.S. from the 1950s-2000s indicate that electoral volatility and competition do contribute to the number and Effective Number of candidates that compete in legislative elections, although there are often country-specific nuances to these relationships. We discuss the implications of our findings for theories of party system size and for our understanding of when and why minor party candidates contest elections.


"An Objective and Simple Measure of Gerrymandering: A Demonstration from New York State"
With Michael D. McDonald and Jonathan Krasno

Abstract: Courts have been notably reluctant to intervene in disputes over partisan gerrymandering, despite the alleged pervasiveness of the practice and judicial involvement in racial gerrymandering. This essay addresses the main reason for this reluctance: the absence of an objective and simple way to detect gerrymandering. Rather than relying on the often complex constitutional analysis of fair and effective representation, we argue that an objective and simple approach to detecting gerrymandering can be achieved by focusing on the question of equal voting rights. The question is whether the mean of a two-party vote percentage distribution equals the median of that distribution. When the two are equal, ballots of voters supporting each party are counted equally; when they differ, ballots from two sets of voters are receiving different weights. This approach to detecting gerrymanders is objective in that it allows the "level" of gerrymandering to be gauged in reasonably precise and reasonably identical levels by whoever is assessing a given plan, and it is simple in that it is accessible to mapmakers before the fact as well as to jurists afterward. Furthermore, our approach requires little math beyond addition, multiplication, and long division. We demonstrate the simplicity and objectivity of this approach by applying it to districts in New York, a state justly famous for its four decades of split party control of its bicameral legislature. In doing so we find that partisan gerrymandering is clearly detectable and largely responsible for these peculiar results in New York, and demonstrate that our approach is a device for detecting gerrymanders that anyone can use.