What is more important: electoral integrity or winning?By Laura Sudulich on 19 April 2017
In our recent article in the Journal of Elections, Public Opinion, and Parties, we examine how electoral fraud affects citizens’ feelings about democracy. We argue that election tinkering shapes the way citizens perceive accountability and responsiveness, which are fundamental evaluations underpinning satisfaction with democracy.
To investigate the link between electoral fraud and satisfaction with democracy, we explore 48 elections in 29 countries in the timespan between 1998 and 2006. Rather unsurprisingly, we can show that higher levels of electoral fraud correspond with less satisfaction with democracy. However, this relationship is not straightforward. We find that citizens' attitudes also depend on the outcomes of the elections. While citizens who have voted for the winning party are more satisfied, this relationship only holds when elections are free and fair. As soon as elections are fraught with manipulation and malpractice, winning and losing no longer exert different effects on voters’ evaluation of the way democracy works. Election fraud thus affects the perceptions of citizens in the same way, no matter if they are on the winning or losing side.
Our findings have a far-reaching impact: If satisfaction with democracy is anchored on citizens’ evaluation of the performance of governments, the cost of electoral malpractice is high. Fraudulent practices are likely to negatively affect citizens' evaluations of government and, ultimately, could undermine regime stability, especially in emerging or fragile democracies. We know that broad support for democratic values is an underlying condition for the consolidation of democracy. Widespread electoral fraud could therefore result in particularly inauspicious climates for the survival of new democracies. Yet our findings offer a glimmer of hope: citizens’ levels of satisfaction in third wave democracies remains higher than in older established democracies in spite of electoral malpractice.
Read our article: Jessica Fortin-Rittberger, Philipp Harfst & Sarah C. Dingler (2017): The costs of electoral fraud: establishing the link between electoral integrity, winning an election, and satisfaction with democracy, Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, DOI: 10.1080/17457289.2017.1310111
By Jessica Fortin-Rittberger, Philipp Harfst, and Sarah C. Dingler, University of Salzburg