Permissive electoral systems and descriptive representation

Kostanca Dhima, Sona N. Golder, Laura B. Stephenson, Karine Van der Straeten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Existing research about the effects of electoral systems on descriptive representation is mixed. In this paper, we test implications of theoretical arguments about the impact of electoral rules on voters’ propensity to vote for women candidates. We conducted a survey experiment during the 2017 provincial election in British Columbia, Canada, using actual candidates in both real and hypothetical electoral districts. We find that more permissive, or candidate-centered, forms of proportional representation do not improve descriptive representation of women; if anything, they diminish it. We interpret these results as being driven by the supply of candidates – voters tend to vote for incumbent, well-known candidates who happen to be predominantly men. Our findings provide a cautionary note about how electoral rules can interact with real-world experiences and conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102381
JournalElectoral Studies
StatePublished - Oct 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Political Science and International Relations


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