Scientific article

Electoral incentives for cross-ethnic voting: evidence from a natural experiment

Published inEuropean Political Science Review, vol. 11, no. 02, p. 197-212
Publication date2019

Prospects for democracy in multi-ethnic societies are generally more promising if elections are not mere ethnic censuses, in which people vote predominantly for co-ethnic parties and candidates. But what institutions facilitate or hinder ethnic voting? Unlike past studies, this article explores ethnic voting by conducting a natural experiment (rather than surveys or laboratory experiments). It examines the case of Fribourg, a bilingual (French/German) Swiss canton where elections at different levels of government, within the same electoral district, are held under both majoritarian and proportional systems. Coupled with the high territorial homogeneity of the linguistic groups, this unique setting allows us to conduct a robust empirical analysis of voter behaviour. We find that cross-ethnic voting is significantly more frequent in multi-member majoritarian elections than in list-PR elections or in two-member majoritarian elections. Our results yield qualified support to the centripetalist approach to electoral design in multi-ethnic societies, that favours majoritarian systems, rather than to the consociational school that advocates proportional representation.

  • Electoral systems
  • Ethnic voting
  • Multi-ethnic societies
  • Centripetalism
  • Consociationalism
  • Switzerland
Citation (ISO format)
STOJANOVIC, Nenad, STRIJBIS, Oliver. Electoral incentives for cross-ethnic voting: evidence from a natural experiment. In: European Political Science Review, 2019, vol. 11, n° 02, p. 197–212. doi: 10.1017/S1755773919000079
Main files (1)
Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal1755-7739

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