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Which Elections Can Be Lost?

  • Susan D. Hyde (a1) and Nikolay Marinov (a1)
Abstract

The concept of electoral competition is relevant to a variety of research agendas in political science, yet the question of how to measure electoral competition has received little direct attention. We revisit the distinction proposed by Giovanni Sartori between competition as a structure or rule of the game and competitiveness as an outcome of that game and argue that to understand which elections can be lost (and therefore when parties and leaders are potentially threatened by electoral accountability), scholars may be better off considering the full range of elections where competition is allowed. We provide a data set of all national elections between 1945 and 2006 and a measure of whether each election event is structured such that the competition is possible. We outline the pitfalls of other measures used by scholars to define the potential for electoral competition and show that such methods can lead to biased or incomplete findings. The new global data on elections and the minimal conditions necessary for electoral competition are introduced, followed by an empirical illustration of the differences between the proposed measure of competition and existing methods used to infer the existence of competition.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
e-mail: susan.hyde@yale.edu (corresponding author)
Footnotes
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Edited by Vera Troeger

Authors' note: We thank the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies, the Institution for Social and Policy Studies, and the Jackson Institute at Yale University for generous support of this project. For helpful comments on previous drafts, we thank Sarah Bush, Marc Howard, Alex Kuo, Patrick Kuhn, Ellen Lust, Irfan Nooruddin, Angela O'Mahony, Kennedy Opalo, Philip Roessler, Nils Weidmann, seminar participants at the College of William & Mary, participants at the 2010 meeting of the Midwest Political Science Conference, the 2011 American Political Science Association, and attendees at the Juan March Institute's 2011 Conference on Electoral Fraud, Vote Buying, and Clientelism. Our gratitude goes to our team of excellent research assistants: Spencer Allee, William Brien, Faizan Diwan, Michael Fan, Josiane Gabel, Martha Grant, Michael Haycock, Allison Hugi, Shazan Jiwa, Bryce Kaufman, Adam Kinnon, Marianna Lanzas Goded, Vanessa Murphy, Ja-Mei Or, Jane Park, Ajla Porca, Karen Porter, Steven Rosenzweig, Gordon Siu, Mary Swartz, Peter Swartz, Rey-Hanna Vakili, Jared Webber, Jerome Wei, Lucas Wozny, Miaoting Wu, and Jiaona Zhang.

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