Call for Papers and Panels for the 2018 ECPR general conference section: Political Elites and Voters in Electoral Democracies

As you might have seen already, our proposal for a CCS section titled: "Political Elites and Voters in Electoral Democracies" at the 2018 ECPR General Conference, in Hamburg, August 22-25 2018, has been accepted.

The next stage of the process is a call for papers and panels. In the following paragraphs, you can find our section proposal and details about the panels which were included in the proposal. If you are interested in presenting your paper(s) in Hamburg, please send email to the chair(s) of the panel your paper might fit with the following details:

The title of the Paper (no more than 20 words)
The abstract of the Paper (no more than 250 words)
Your and all your coauthors’ email addresses as registered in your/their MyECPR account
3–8 keywords from the ECPR predetermined list of keywords

Since the finalized panels have to be submitted by panel chairs before February 15th, we set February 7th as the deadline for the call for papers, so that the panel chairs have sufficient time to decide which papers could be included in their panels.

Campaign, Candidate, Communication, Comparative Perspective, Elites, Electoral Behaviour, Representation, Women

This section focuses on the role of political elites in electoral democracies and the linkage between political elites and voters. The section will include papers which give answers on a series of questions about parliamentary candidates and MPs: What is the candidates’ political background and what kind of groups, organizations or associations have endorsed them? What are the most influential factors in deciding candidacy nomination and what contributes to the electoral success of certain candidates under varying levels of intraparty competition? What is the role of new technology tools and social media in the individual candidate campaigns, do they aim to attract attention to their parties or to themselves and what is the impact of the electoral systems and the seat allocation algorithms on their campaign strategies? Do party elites consider themselves as delegates, trustees or partisans? What are their policy preferences, what are their attitudes towards EU and what is their opinion about the recent financial crisis of many European countries? Finally, what is their opinion about the way that democracy functions and the quality of political representation in their country?
In addition to studies focusing on the aforementioned questions about political elites, we are interested to developing a deeper understanding of the linkage between voters and political elites. Political representation is not possible without some sort of connection between the preferences and interests, the identities and desires of the represented and what the representatives articulate and promote. The nature, mechanics and functionality of this connection is usually debated in terms of policy and/or ideological congruence. In fact, ideological congruence is one of the most commonly used measurements of the quality of a democracy. In the past, congruence was typically studied by comparing the attitudes of voters with what panels of experts considered to be the attitudes of politicians or the positions of parties, but recently a growing number of published studies, instead of evaluations by experts, use surveys of elected MPs or candidates in order to study the voter-representative congruence as a many-to-many relationship. Arguably, such a methodological orientation offers a more direct representation of political elite preferences and desires. In addition, this approach provides an additional advantage: an estimate of the within party variance for both the supply (candidates) and the demand side (voters) of a party. This is an important information because for many political parties the intra-party cohesiveness should not be taken for granted.
One of the motives of this section proposal is the forthcoming availability of the first release of the Comparative Candidate Survey Module II dataset (scheduled for the end of November 2017). Thus, we welcome papers that will use CCS data or combine with voter data to demonstrate the linkage between political elites and voters. In addition, we strongly encourage the submission of papers which focus on theoretical or methodological aspects related to political elites and of course we welcome papers which use other datasets related to political elites.
The section “Political Elites and Voters in Electoral Democracies” although it is not initiated by any of the ECPR Standing Groups, it is supported by two: The ECPR Standing Group on Public Opinion and Voting Behaviour in a Comparative Perspective and the ECPR Standing Group on Elites and Political Leadership. Finally, the section is initiated and endorsed by the Comparative Candidates Survey, a joint multi-national project with the goal of collecting data on candidates running for national parliamentary elections in different countries using a common core questionnaire.

Panels and Chairs/Discussants
Panel 1: Voter-party congruence in comparative perspective

Chairs and Discussants
Stefano Camatarri, Autonomous University of Barcelona (
Andrea Pedrazzani, University of Bologna (
Luca Pinto, Scuola Normale Superiore Firenze (
A certain correspondence between the positions of political elites and those of citizens is commonly understood as a major aspect of democratic representation. From a normative perspective, under a democratic regime the preferences of the elected representatives are expected to be aligned with the preferences of the mass public. Empirically, the study of this correspondence constitutes a huge and still developing research program in political science. Congruence between politicians and voters has been conceptualized and measured in various ways, depending on the specific research questions at issue. Some scholars, especially in the US, have assessed the degree of preference congruence between individual legislators and their electoral constituencies. Others have measured congruence between the government and the electorate as a whole. In Europe, congruence has been typically analyzed on a party basis, i.e. between voters and politicians of the same party. In addition, the correspondence between politicians and voters can be assessed either on the general left-right dimension or on more substantive policy scales. A further crucial issue concerning the study of congruence deals with whether to choose a relative measure (i.e. an indicator based on the correlations between politicians’ and voters’ preferences) or an absolute measure (i.e. an indicator based on the proximity between the two).
Building on an ever growing body of scholarship, this panel aims at collecting works that explore new avenues of research in the field of voter-party congruence. Paper proposals are expected to exploit data from the Comparative Candidate Survey Module II and to consider congruence either as a dependent variable or as an explanatory factor. We accept papers taking into consideration also the dynamic dimension of political representation, as the key parameters of the relationship between citizens and politicians can be altered over time throughout electoral cycles. Moreover, we encourage paper proposals where congruence is measured not only on the left-right axis, but also on specific domains – including, for example, dimensions extracted through sophisticated analyses of survey questions. We also welcome works where parties and the electorate are explicitly considered as collective (rather unitary) entities. Furthermore, elected politicians can represent citizens in many ways, including through constituency work, the provision of resources for the district, or through various accountability mechanisms. This panel is open to papers that analyze the relationship between voter-party congruence and other dimensions of political representation.

Panel 2: Women still discriminated at the polls?
Chair: Georg Lutz,, University of Lausanne
Women are still strongly underrepresented in many parliaments. For a long time the assumption was that women face disadvantages compared to men when they want to run and then also later by voters at the polls. This assumptions have been questioned in recent years, some studies pointing at a reduced or vanished gap at least during elections. In this panel we will welcome contributions that look at gender discrimination in the different phases of the electoral process with a special focus on how women perform in elections compared to men.

Panel 3: Intraparty competition under proportional representation
Chair: Åsa von Schoultz, University of Helsinki,
In most West-European democracies political representation is conceptualised as a link between voters and political parties, and a substantial part of research in political science has been devoted to explore different facets of this link. In proportional electoral systems using open or flexible lists, elections are however not only battles between, but also within parties. Alongside nationally oriented political debates between parties and their leading politicians, there are constituency-based battles, where candidates running for the same party compete to get the most votes. Despite the overall trend towards a more personalized political arena, and systemic changes which gives voters a greater say over which candidates that become elected, political science research continues to be heavily dominated by the interparty dimension of politics, i.e. the competition between parties. Far less prominence is given to the distribution of power within parties, i.e. the intraparty dimension of representation. The mechanisms behind individual electoral success and the strategies used by candidates in order to be competitive on the intraparty dimension is hence still very much unexplored territory.
The panel invites papers that address different aspects of intraparty competition under proportional representation, and that contributes to deepen our understanding of the mechanisms that shapes individual electoral success under these systems. Is the outcome at the intraparty dimension determined by personal characteristics only, or is there a role for the message under such information demanding settings? What are the campaign strategies applied by candidates in order to cultivate a personal vote? How are these patterns shaped by contextual factors?

Panel 4: Background, Representation, and Communication: parliamentary candidates in a comparative perspective
Rune Karlsen Institutt for samfunnsforskning
Lieven De Winter Université catholique de Louvain
Hermann Schmitt University of Manchester and University of Mannheim

Candidates are central in the process of representation in advanced democracies. During competitive electoral campaigns they act as direct intermediary between (constituency) voters and parliaments and governments. In the US, candidates have always occupied an important place to the extent that the system is labeled candidate centered. In Western Europe a number of studies found that the essential ‘representational bond’ was not between the local representative and his or her local constituency, but between parties and the party voters. Studies exploring the electoral connection between representatives and voters were therefore for a long time focused almost exclusively on the link between voters and parties. This started to change as a consequence of changes in the make-up and performance of political parties, the increasing prominence of individual politicians over their political parties, and the nature of electoral communication. A change often labelled the “Americanisation” of political communication, campaigns, and even politics tout court. In this panel we focus on the role of parliamentary candidates in western democracies and ask: Where do candidates come from (in terms of their socio-economic and political background? What is their policy preference? Are these preferences congruent to those held by their voters? How do candidates view their role as (potential) “representatives of the people”? And, how do they reach out to their potential voters during election campaigns?

Panel 5: Party Polarization – Similarities and Differences between Voters and Candidates
Ioannis Andreadis, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece
Political polarization has recently attracted the attention of political science scholars because it can undermine the functioning of representative institutions and it could lead to policy stalemate, and political distrust. According to a large part of the related literature that is based on US politics, political polarization is a product of the political elites. On the other hand, other publications (including those based on the theory of social cleavages), express the idea that a polarized party configuration occurs when political elites express into the political arena deep, preexisting social divisions.
Since there is no consensus on how to define and measure political polarization, this panel invites papers that address the different aspects of this multifaceted concept and propose ways to measure political polarization both in two-party and multiparty political systems. For instance, what are the best indicators of polarization? The panel is looking for papers that will deepen our understanding of the interactions between voters and candidates. Papers that address the following questions are very welcome: Are voters more or less polarized than political elites? Do elites build on existing cleavages or can they invent new ones? Under what conditions is polarization increased? What is the role of contextual factors?