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Selection of Politicians in Closed List Proportional Representation

Fri, September 1, 12:00 to 1:30pm, Westin St. Francis, Elizabethan B


Recent empirical and theoretical studies on majoritarian election systems show that parties assign more able candidates to more competitive races. Applying this logic to PR systems with closed or semi-open lists suggests that parties should place more able candidates on seats that hinge on pivotal votes, that is, the "marginal ranks" on the electoral ballot. We test this claim in Swedish administrative micro-data that can characterize the nomination behavior of over 2,000 municipal-level political parties, and 7 national parties, over a 30 year period. After building a new, data-driven, measure of the degree of "marginality" across ranks on electoral ballots, we investigate parties' nomination strategies with regard to four measures of candidate quality: education, IQ, leadership skills, and earning power on the private labor market. Our results forcefully refute the claim that marginal seats are of strategic importance in proportional election systems: across each measurement of politician quality, candidates on marginal seats are not more qualified than the politicians just above or just below them on the ballots; parties do not alter their nomination behavior around these "pivotal" seats at the introduction of flexible lists, nor do the marginal candidates attract more preference votes. We conclude that electoral competition occurs at the party margin, rather than at the candidate margin, in proportional election systems with closed or flexible lists