Recent findings show an apparent erosion in the United States over the post-war years of 'social capital' understood as the propensity of individuals to associate together on a regular basis, to trust one another, and to engage in community affairs. This article examines the British case for similar trends, finding no equivalent erosion. It proposes explanations for the resilience of social capital in Britain, rooted in educational reform, the transformation of the class structure, and government policy. It concludes by drawing some general lessons from the British case that stress the importance of the distributive dimensions of social capital and the impact that governments can have on it.
According to some, the modern mass media have a malign effect on modern democracy, tending to induce political apathy, alienation, cynicism and a loss of social capital - in a word, 'mediamalaise'. Some theorists argue that this is the result of media content, others that it is the consequence of the form of the media, especially television. According to others, the mass media, in conjunction with rising educational levels, help to inform and mobilize people politically, making them more knowledgeable and understanding. This study investigates the mobilization and mediamalaise hypotheses, and finds little to support the latter. Reading a broadsheet newspaper regularly is strongly associated with mobilization, while watching a lot of television has a weaker association of the same kind. Tabloid newspapers and general television are not strongly associated with measures of mediamalaise. It seems to be the content of the media, rather than its form which is important.
This article examines the relationship between national political and economic institutions and environmental performance since the early 1970s in seventeen OECD countries. After presenting hypotheses about some of the effects of the most important structural and institutional variables on performance, I test these hypotheses using a multiple regression analysis. I find that neo-corporatist societies experience much better environmental outcomes than more pluralist systems. However, neither the degree of 'consensual' political democracy nor traditional political factors can explain much variation in environmental performance. These relationships hold even after controlling for other structural factors such as income and manufacturing intensity. The results are robust despite perennial small-n statistical problems encountered in comparative political economy.
Existing explanations of domestic structural change focus on the role crises play in precipitating radical or episodic change. They largely ignore the sources and consequences of incremental change, even though this type of change also can have significant effects for policy processes and outcomes. We outline a framework for studying institutional transformation that accounts for both forms of change. The argument is a three part one. First, international and domestic events, including both crises and gradual pressures, open windows of opportunity that provide policy officials with the potential to transform existing institutions. Large-scale, system-wide changes open large windows, which allow radical change, while small-scale, issue-specific problems and changes create more limited opportunities for change. Secondly, whether an institutional change follows a window of opportunity depends on the actions and interests of state officials. Thirdly, state officials' ability to capitalize on a window of opportunity depends on their institutional position or capacity; the prevailing institutional arrangements create opportunities for, or place limits on, officials' ability to make change. Two case studies illustrate and probe the plausibility of the argument.
In order to understand how electoral rules affect political outcomes, we need to know whether and how voters react to them. The ability of voters to react strategically to electoral rules may be limited in cases where the electoral rules are complex. In this article, I look for evidence of rational reactions to a moderately complex electoral system, that used in the Federal Republic of Germany. By examining district-level election results, I find substantial evidence that voters do react rationally, despite the complexity of the two-vote system. The rational reactions by voters lead to excess first votes for incumbents, for candidates of the major party expected to be in government, to major-party candidates in close races and to major-party candidates in districts with significant minority-party support. The findings support both the general claim that voters can react strategically to complex electoral rules, and more specific claims about the value of the two-vote ballot in Germany.
Low electoral turnout is often considered to be bad for democracy, whether inherently or because it calls legitimacy into question or because low turnout implies lack of representation of certain groups and inegalitarian policies.(1) Yet there would appear to be a straightforward cure for low turnout: make voting compulsory. Of the twenty-five countries in the International Almanac of Electoral History for which Katz has collected institutional data, four have compulsory voting.(2) Turnout in these countries averages 89 per cent, as compared to 75 per cent in the other twenty-one countries (see Table 2, below). One country with particularly low turnout in national elections is the United States (a fact that has often caused concern among those who worry about the health of American democracy),(3) and Arend Lijphart, in his 1996 Presidential Address to the American Political Science Association, has strongly suggested that compulsory voting be adopted in that country in order to remedy the problem.(4)
For years, scholars and pundits have blamed Japan's single, non-transferable vote (SNTV) electoral system for the factions that divide and organize the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). In January 1994, Japan abandoned SNTV, and the first election under the new rules occurred in October 1996. If SNTV did in fact sustain the factions, it makes sense that the factional structure ought to have weakened under the new rules. In this article, we provide an informal model of what the old factional exchange between leaders and followers was like and investigate the extent to which the terms of this exchange, and hence the characteristics of Japanese factionalism, have begun to change under the new rules. We expect and find the largest decline in factional leaders' role in the area of nominations, and the slightest changes, at least in the short run, in the allocation of posts. On the other side of the exchange, we find that followers appear less willing to march to their leaders' tunes in LDP presidential elections.
This article supports two theoretical changes to models of comparative economic voting. The first is that the distinction between expected and unexpected components of inflation and economic growth is important. We posit that voters are primarily concerned with unexpected inflation and unexpected growth since these changes have real income effects and serve as better indicators of government competence. Empirical analyses of data from nineteen industrialized nations in 1970-94 reveal stronger electoral effects for the unexpected components of inflation and growth than for their overall levels. The second innovation is the relaxation of the assumption of homoscedasticity, which led to the finding that the relationship between economic factors and incumbent vote has become more volatile over time and is less volatile when policy-making responsibility is more obscured.
How do people make decisions when they have to choose between unknown futures? Do they simply rely on anticipated costs and benefits or do they use some other criteria to assess their options? And what determines the criteria they use to make such decisions? This article explores the way voters take sides when they are faced with a fundamental political choice. Using data from a survey of voting intentions conducted prior to the 1995 referendum on sovereignty in Quebec, we find that attitude towards risk-taking influences political choice indirectly, as it affects the relative weights given to different decision criteria. Individuals who usually accept risk more readily tend to choose entirely on the basis of anticipated costs and benefits, but individuals who are more reluctant to take risks give almost as much weight to the perceived possibility of a 'worst outcome'. Our analysis suggests that attitude towards risk-taking had a modest but significant impact on individual choice, and thus was a contributing factor in the outcome of the Quebec referendum.
An essential feature of political representation is that a mediating assembly is set between the citizenry and political decision making. Representation involves indirect decision making or agency. Rational actor political theory often assumes representation in order to focus on problems of a principal-agent kind, but offers only relatively weak arguments for representation. We offer an alternative argument for representation that builds on our broader interpretation of rational actor political theory - an interpretation that emphasizes expressive considerations relative to instrumental considerations, and operates in a richer motivational setting. As well as providing an account of representation, we believe that our approach is capable of re-connecting rational actor political theory to many of the concerns of more traditional political theory.
The European Union is a polity in the making, where political actors contend about basic questions of governance. While students have begun to map contention between public parties and private interests, little attention has been paid to how office-holders in the Commission conceive of European integration. Using interview data collected from 140 senior officials of the Commission, I identify contention along four dimensions: whether the EU should have supranational or intergovernmental institutions; whether it should use democratic or technocratic decision making; whether it should promote regulated capitalism or market liberalism; and whether the elite should defend the European public good or be responsive to various interests. My findings challenge EU theories that conceive of the Commission as a unitary actor with a pro-integration agenda.
There has been considerable disagreement among political scientists over the relative merits of political culture versus rational choice explanations of democratic and liberal norms and commitments. However, empirical tests of their relative explanatory power using quantitative evidence have been in short supply. This article employs national probability sample surveys conducted in 1994 to assess differences between Czechs and Slovaks in the expression of democratic norms and liberal attitudes with respect to economic, political, social and ethnic issues. The applicability of an explanation focusing on long-standing cultural differences between the two countries is compared with a rational choice explanation based on national differences in their recent experiences of political and economic transition. It is shown that differences in the expression of support for marketization and democracy in the two countries can be explained relatively parsimoniously in rational choice terms. The explanatory contribution of political culture appears to relate only to a narrow range of attitudes and values.
One influential strand of public policy-making theory imputes considerable autonomy to civil servants (and politicians) from social pressures; and, in Heclo's variant, conceives of policy makers as engaging in a benign process of social learning, the results of which benefit society. In this article we use the campaign to enact legislation for voluntary sterilization as an example of such a process. The analysis is based on archival records of the deliberations of the Brock Committee (1932-34), established to investigate the desirability of sterilization; it demonstrates how the committee attempted to develop a stronger case for the measure than warranted by the scientific evidence. We argue that the content of the Brock Committee's deliberations conforms in broad terms to the predictions of social learning theory, but that the process was more complicated than this framework would suggest, involving a significant element of interest-group lobbying, thereby weakening the autonomy of state policy makers. Furthermore, the deliberations themselves give cause to revise the laudatory view, more or less explicit in social learning theory, of policy experts' machinations.
The article focuses on citizens' satisfaction with the German democratic political system. The empirical analysis reported supports the argument that the performance of the economy and the government affect popular satisfaction with the regime. In the East, satisfaction with the regime remains very low and dissatisfaction has spread into West Germany. In the West, the sources of this dissatisfaction are both economic developments and government performance; citizens modify their views on the system as a consequence of the government's and the economy's successes and failures. The dynamic is similar in the East. Economic strains, and the perception that the federal government is not making sufficient efforts to equalize living standards, have kept the Eastern population from committing themselves to the new unified political system.
In this article the ability of Laver and Shepsle's portfolio allocation (PA) theory to account for the survival records of coalition governments in twelve West European parliamentary democracies is examined. The initial test consists of determining whether governments that are in PA equilibrium survive longer than other governments. Simulation experiments are then used to estimate the robustness of these equilibria in order to assess whether robust equilibria have significant survival-enhancing properties. The foil in this investigation is the ideological diversity approach, which sees ministerial accommodation, not ministerial autonomy, as the key to decision making in coalition governments. The evidence favours the latter perspective.
This article synthesizes a large body of work in applied economics on the likely effects of European Monetary Union with an established literature in political science on the political sustainability of intervention by central or federal authorities in the economies of diverse nations, states or regions. Three possible economic scenarios resulting from EMU are identified - fiscal centralization, monetary discipline and loose money. The greatly enhanced central role implied by the first two would be difficult to legitimize in the context of the absence of a European citizen identity or party system. Historical precedent suggests that, in democracies, both central redistribution in social spending and retrenchment of established social programmes are facilitated by jurisdiction-wide political parties. The loose money scenario, while viable in most member states, would be unlikely to be acceptable in Germany. The article concludes, therefore, that all three scenarios most often predicted by the economics literature carry with them a risk that they will be difficult to sustain politically.
There has been extensive research on Scottish, Welsh and Irish nationalism but little on British nationalism. Analysis of the British electorate shows that British nationalist sentiments cannot be reduced to the conventional left-right and libertarian-authoritarian value dimensions, and constitute a distinct normative dimension in their own right. They are related to attitudes towards Europe, nuclear defence, Scottish devolution and Irish unification. Although by no means as important as the left-right dimension, they are at least as important in contemporary voting behaviour as the libertarian-authoritarian dimension.
Alberto Alesina and Howard Rosenthal argue that surprise about the outcomes of US presidential elections accounts for two important features of the American political economy: the regular loss of votes experienced by the president's party in midterm congressional elections, and the systematic relationship between the party of the incoming president and macroeconomic performance. Scholars recently have begun conducting rigorous tests of the relationship between surprise and economic performance, but no similar empirical work exists on how surprise affects midterm elections. In this article, we offer the first direct test of the proposition that electoral surprise drives the midterm loss. Our analysis shows that the more surprised moderate voters are about the outcome of a presidential election, the lower the probability that they will support the president's party in the following midterm contest.
Plurality electoral systems with multi-member districts and single nontransferable votes (SNTV) allow parties to win multiple seats in district elections by nominating multiple candidates, but they also penalize a party's seat share if the number of candidates offered is 'too many' or 'too few'. Given an institutional incentive to nominate the 'correct' number of candidates, we seek to establish empirically that the nominating behaviour of parties in such systems results from a rational calculus of strategic choice. So we develop and test an empirical theory of rational nominating behaviour applied to Japanese district elections before the 1994 electoral reform. We establish, for all possible nominating strategies, the conditions on voting outcomes required for actors to maximize benefits in the context. The efficiency of actual strategy choices for maximizing benefits is found by comparing an observed outcome from voting (the distributed benefit) with the benefit that would be expected had the party chosen its 'best' alternative nominating strategy instead. Empirical testing indicates that Japanese parties discriminated between available nominating strategies and made choices that maximized benefits in the context, evidence that the nominating behaviour of parties in this test environment was based on rational calculation.