Skip to main content

The Effects of Government System Fractionalization on Satisfaction With Democracy*

  • Pablo Christmann and Mariano Torcal

Consensual-pluralistic institutional features of representative democracies have traditionally been associated with satisfaction with democracy (SWD). However, more recent studies report contradictory results on the effects of some of these institutional determinants on SWD. This article confirms these puzzling findings by showing that electoral proportionality increases SWD while other pluralistic factors such as government fractionalization produce the opposite effect. We illustrate this duality of counteracting effects by expanding the number of cases under study to different regions of the world in a comprehensive time-series cross-sectional sample of 58 democracies between 1990 and 2012. In the second part of the paper, we are able to reconfirm these findings at the individual level by employing survey data from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems.

Hide All

Pablo Christmann Lecturer in Political Science at the Department of Political and Social Science and a Researcher at the Research and Expertise Centre for Survey Methodology (RECSM) at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona ( and Mariano Torcal Full Professor in Political Science at the Department of Political and Social Science and co-director of the Research and Expertise Centre for Survey Methodology (RECSM) at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, C/ Ramon Trias Fargas 25-27, 08005 Barcelona, Spain ( To view supplementary material for this article, please visit

Hide All
Aarts, Kees, and Thomassen, Jacques. 2008. ‘Satisfaction With Democracy: Do Institutions Matter?Electoral Studies 27(1):518.
Aisen, Ari, and Veiga, Francisco José. 2013. ‘How Does Political Instability Affect Economic Growth?European Journal of Political Economy 29:151167.
Alesina, Alberto, Devleeschauwer, Arnaud, Easterly, William, Kurlat, Sergio, and Wacziarg, Romain. 2003. ‘Fractionalization’. Journal of Economic Growth 8(2):155194.
Alesina, Alberto, Ozler, Sule, Roubini, Nouriel, and Swagel, Phillip. 1996. ‘Political Instability and Economic Growth’. Journal of Economic Growth 1(2):189211.
Anderson, Christopher, Blais, Andre, and Bowler, Shaun. 2005. Losers’ Consent: Elections and Democratic Legitimacy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Anderson, Christopher J., and Just, Aida. 2013. ‘Legitimacy From Above: The Partisan Foundations of Support for the Political System in Democracies’. European Political Science Review 5(3):335362.
Anderson, Christopher J., and Guillory, Christine A.. 1997. ‘Political Institutions and Satisfaction With Democracy: A Cross-National Analysis of Consensus and Majoritarian Systems’. The American Political Science Review 91(1):6681.
Anderson, Christopher J., and Singer, Matthew M.. 2008. ‘The Sensitive Left and the Impervious Right Multilevel Models and the Politics of Inequality, Ideology, and Legitimacy in Europe’. Comparative Political Studies 41(4–5):564599.
Anderson, Christopher J., and Tverdova, Yuliya V.. 2001. ‘Winners, Losers, and Attitudes About Government in Contemporary Democracies’. International Political Science Review 22(4):321338.
Anderson, Christopher J., and Tverdova, Yuliya V.. 2003. ‘Corruption, Political Allegiances, and Attitudes Toward Government in Contemporary Democracies’. American Journal of Political Science 47(1):91109.
Ariely, Gal. 2013. ‘Public Administration and Citizen Satisfaction With Democracy: Cross-National Evidence’. International Review of Administrative Sciences 79(4):747766.
Armingeon, Klaus, and Guthmann, Kai. 2014. ‘Democracy in Crisis? The Declining Support for National Democracy in European Countries, 2007–2011’. European Journal of Political Research 53(3):423442.
Banducci, Susan A., and Karp, Jeffrey A.. 2003. ‘How Elections Change the Way Citizens View the Political System: Campaigns, Media Effects and Electoral Outcomes in Comparative Perspective’. British Journal of Political Science 33(3):443467.
Bell, Andrew, and Jones, Kelvyn. 2015. ‘Explaining Fixed Effects: Random Effects Modeling of Time-Series Cross-Sectional and Panel Data’. Political Science Research and Methods 3(1):133153.
Berggren, Heidi M., Fugate, Gregory A., Preuhs, Robert R., and Still, Dennis R.. 2004. ‘Satisfied? Institutional Determinants of Citizen Evaluations of Democracy’. Politics & Policy 32(1):7296.
Bernauer, Julian, and Vatter, Adrian. 2011. ‘Can’t Get No Satisfaction With the Westminster Model? Winners, Losers and the Effects of Consensual and Direct Democratic Institutions on Satisfaction With Democracy’. European Journal of Political Research 51(4):435468.
Blais, André. 2006. ‘What Affects Voter Turnout?Annual Review of Political Science 9(1):111125.
Blais, André, and Dobrzynska, Agnieszka. 1998. ‘Turnout in Electoral Democracies’. European Journal of Political Research 33(2):239261.
Blais, André, Morin-Chassé, Alexandre, and Singh, Shane P.. 2017. ‘Election Outcomes, Legislative Representation, and Satisfaction With Democracy’. Party Politics 23(2):8595.
Blais, André, and Aarts, Kees. 2006. ‘Electoral Systems and Turnout’. Acta Politica 41(2):180196.
Bormann, Nils-Christian, and Golder, Matt. 2013. ‘Democratic Electoral Systems Around the World, 1946–2011’. Electoral Studies 32(2):360369.
Carey, John M, and Hix, Simon. 2011. ‘The Electoral Sweet Spot: Low-Magnitude Proportional Electoral Systems’. American Journal of Political Science 55(2):383397.
Cheibub, José Antonio, Gandhi, Jennifer, and Vreeland, James Raymond. 2010. ‘Democracy and Dictatorship Revisited’. Public Choice 143(1–2):67101.
Clarke, Harold D., Dutt, Nitish, and Kornberg, Allan. 1993. ‘The Political Economy of Attitudes Toward Polity and Society in Western European Democracies’. The Journal of Politics 55(4):9981021.
Cordero, Guillermo, and Simón, Pablo. 2016. ‘Economic Crisis and Support for Democracy in Europe’. West European Politics 39(2):305325.
Cruz, Cesi, Keefer, Philip, and Scartascini, Carlos. 2016. ‘Database of Political Institutions Codebook, 2015 Update (DPI2015)’. Inter-American Development Bank. Updated version of Thorsten Beck, George Clarke, Alberto Groff, Philip Keefer, and Patrick Walsh. 2001. ‘New Tools in Comparative Political Economy: The Database of Political Institutions.’ The World Bank Economic Review 15(1):165–76.
Curini, Luigi, Jou, Willy, and Memoli, Vincenzo. 2012. ‘Satisfaction With Democracy and the Winner/Loser Debate: The Role of Policy Preferences and Past Experience’. British Journal of Political Science 42(2):241261.
Dahlberg, Stefan, and Holmberg, Sören. 2014. ‘Democracy and Bureaucracy: How Their Quality Matters for Popular Satisfaction’. West European Politics 37(3):515537.
Esaiasson, Peter. 2011. ‘Electoral Losers Revisited – How Citizens React to Defeat at the Ballot Box’. Electoral Studies 30(1):102113.
Ezrow, Lawrence, and Xezonakis, Georgios. 2011. ‘Citizen Satisfaction With Democracy and Parties’ Policy Offerings’. Comparative Political Studies 44(9):11521178.
Fairbrother, Malcolm. 2014. ‘Two Multilevel Modeling Techniques for Analyzing Comparative Longitudinal Survey Datasets’. Political Science Research and Methods 2(1):119140.
Farrell, David M., and McAllister, Ian. 2006. ‘Voter Satisfaction and Electoral Systems: Does Preferential Voting in Candidate-Centred Systems Make a Difference?European Journal of Political Research 45(5):723749.
Gallagher, Michael. 2015. ‘Election Indices Dataset’. Available at, accessed 21 August 2016.
Halla, Martin, Schneider, Friedrich G., and Wagner, Alexander F.. 2013. ‘Satisfaction With Democracy and Collective Action Problems: The Case of the Environment’. Public Choice 155(1–2):109137.
Huang, Min-hua, Chang, Yu-tzung, and Chu, Yun-han. 2008. ‘Identifying Sources of Democratic Legitimacy: A Multilevel Analysis’. Electoral Studies 27(1):4562.
Jackman, Robert W.. 1987. ‘Political Institutions and Voter Turnout in the Industrial Democracies’. The American Political Science Review 81(2):405423.
Karp, Jeffery A., and Bowler, Shaun. 2001. ‘Coalition Government and Satisfaction With Democracy: An Analysis of New Zealand’s Reaction to Proportional Representation’. European Journal of Political Research 40(1):5779.
Karp, Jeffrey A., and Banducci, Susan A.. 2008. ‘Political Efficacy and Participation in Twenty-Seven Democracies: How Electoral Systems Shape Political Behaviour’. British Journal of Political Science 38(2):311334.
Lijphart, Arend. 1994. Electoral Systems and Party Systems: A Study of Twenty-Seven Democracies, 1945-1990. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Lijphart, Arend. 2012. Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries 2nd ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Listhaug, Ola, Aardal, Bernt, and Ellis, Ingunn Opheim. 2009. ‘Institutional Variation and Political Support: An Analysis of CSES Data From 29 Countries’. In Hans-Dieter Klingemann and Ian McAllister (eds), The Comparative Study of Electoral Systems, 85108. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Lühiste, Kadri. 2014. ‘Social Protection and Satisfaction With Democracy: A Multi-Level Analysis’. Political Studies 62(4):784803.
Lundell, Krister. 2011. ‘Accountability and Patterns of Alternation in Pluralitarian, Majoritarian and Consensus Democracies’. Government and Opposition 46(2):145167.
Manin, Bernard, Przeworski, Adam, and Stokes, Susan C.. 1999. ‘Elections and Representation’. In Manin, Bernard, Adam Przeworski, and Susan C. Stokes (eds), Democracy, Accountability, and Representation, 29–54. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Martini, Sergio, and Quaranta, Mario. 2014. ‘Finding Out the Hard Way: Uncovering the Structural Foundations of Political Dissatisfaction in Italy, 1973–2013’. West European Politics 38(1):2852.
Merkel, Wolfgang, Daniel Bochsler, Karima Bousbah, Marc Bühlmann, Heiko Giebler, Miriam Hänni, Lea Heyne, Lisa Müller, Saskia Ruth, and Bernhard Wessels. 2016. Democracy Barometer. Codebook. Version 5. Aarau: Zentrum Für Demokratie.
Miller, Arthur H., and Listhaug, Ola. 1990. ‘Political Parties and Confidence in Government: A Comparison of Norway, Sweden and United States’. British Journal of Political Science 29(3):357386.
Mundlak, Yair. 1978. ‘On the Pooling of Time Series and Cross Section Data’. Econometrica 46(1):6985.
Norris, Pippa. 2008. Driving Democracy: Do Power-Sharing Institutions Work? New York/Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ordeshook, Peter C., and Shvetsova, Olga V.. 1994. ‘Ethnic Heterogeneity, District Magnitude, and the Number of Parties’. American Journal of Political Science 38(1):100123.
Peffley, Mark, and Rohrschneider, Robert. 2014. ‘The Multiple Bases of Democratic Support: Procedural Representation and Governmental Outputs’. In Jacques Thomassen (ed.), Elections and Democracy: Representation and Accountability, 181200. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Plümper, Thomas, and Troeger, Vera E.. 2007. ‘Efficient Estimation of Time-Invariant and Rarely Changing Variables in Finite Sample Panel Analyses With Unit Fixed Effects’. Political Analysis 15(2):124139.
Powell, G. Bingham. 2000. Elections as Instruments of Democracy: Majoritarian and Proportional Visions. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Quaranta, Mario, and Martini, Sergio. 2016. ‘Does the Economy Really Matter for Satisfaction With Democracy? Longitudinal and Cross-Country Evidence From the European Union’. Electoral Studies 42:164174.
Quaranta, Mario, and Martini, Sergio. 2017. ‘Easy Come, Easy Go? Economic Performance and Satisfaction With Democracy in Southern Europe in the Last Three Decades’. Social Indicators Research 131(2):659680.
Schäfer, Armin. 2010. ‘Die Folgen Sozialer Ungleicheit Für Die Demokratie in Westeuropa’. Zeitschrift Für Vergleichende Politikwissenschaft 4(1):131156.
Schmidt-Catran, Alexander W., and Fairbrother, Malcolm. 2015. ‘The Random Effects in Multilevel Models: Getting Them Wrong and Getting Them Right’. European Sociological Review, 32(1):23–38.
Singh, Shane, Lago, Ignacio, and Blais, André. 2011. ‘Winning and Competitiveness as Determinants of Political Support’. Social Science Quarterly 92(3):695709.
Singh, Shane P. 2014. ‘Not All Election Winners are Equal: Satisfaction With Democracy and the Nature of the Vote’. European Journal of Political Research 53(2):308327.
Solt, Frederick. 2016. ‘The Standardized World Income Inequality Database’. Social Science Quarterly 97(5):12671281.
Somer-Topcu, Zeynep, and Williams, Laron K.. 2008. ‘Survival of the Fittest? Cabinet Duration in Post-Communist Europe’. Comparative Politics 40(3):313330.
Sousa, Luís de, Magalhães, Pedro C., and Amaral, Luciano. 2014. ‘Sovereign Debt and Governance Failures Portuguese Democracy and the Financial Crisis’. American Behavioral Scientist 58(12):15171541.
Taagepera, Rein. 2003. ‘Arend Lijphart’s Dimensions of Democracy: Logical Connections and Institutional Design’. Political Studies 51(1):119.
Taylor, Michael, and Herman, Valentine M.. 1971. ‘Party Systems and Government Stability’. The American Political Science Review 65(1):2837.
Teorell, Jan, Dahlberg, Stefan, Holmberg, Sören, Rothstein, Bo, Khomenko, Anna, and Svensson, Richard. 2016. ‘The Quality of Government Standard Dataset, version Jan16’. University of Gothenburg, The Quality of Government Institute. Available at, accessed 28 September 2016.
Weil, Frederick D. 1989. ‘The Sources and Structure of Legitimation in Western Democracies: A Consolidated Model Tested With Time-Series Data in Six Countries Since World War II’. American Sociological Review 54(5):682706.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Political Science Research and Methods
  • ISSN: 2049-8470
  • EISSN: 2049-8489
  • URL: /core/journals/political-science-research-and-methods
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Christmann and Torcal supplementary material

 PDF (2.1 MB)
2.1 MB
Supplementary materials

Christmann and Torcal Dataset



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 10
Total number of PDF views: 39 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 382 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 17th July 2017 - 17th March 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.