THE DEVELOPMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT CREATED THE potential for modern mass democracy. Instead of directly participating in political decision making as in the Greek polis or the Swiss canton, the public selects legislators to represent them in government deliberations. Citizen control over government thus occurs through periodic, competitive elections to select these elites. Elections should ensure that government officials are responsive and accountable to the public. By accepting this electoral process, the public gives its consent to be governed by the elites selected. The democratic process thus depends on an effective and responsive relationship between the representative and the represented.
The linkage between the public and the political decision makers is one of the essential topics for the study of democratic political systems (e.g., Miller and Stokes 1963; Miller et al. 1999; Powell 2000; Shapiro et al. 2010). The topic of representation is entirely appropriate in a volume dedicated to Jacques Thomassen since this has been one of his career research interests (Thomassen 1976, 1994, 2009a; Thomassen and Schmitt 1997; Schmitt and Thomassen 1999). This general topic has also generated extensive research on the nature of elections and citizen voting behavior, which examines the choices available to voters and their decision-making process. A related literature examines the process of government formation, and the correspondence between electoral outcomes and the resulting government. Representation research involves the merger of these two literatures to examine the correspondence between citizens and their elected leaders, and the factors that maximize agreement.
This representation literature provides the foundation for the research presented here; however, we offer a different perspective on how elections produce democratic representation and accountability. Most of the previous literature views elections and government formation as discrete decision-making processes. Voters make their electoral choices much as they might make a major consumer purchase in a car dealership or a department store, and a large part of the literature explicitly utilizes such an economic choice approach. Similarly, research on the formation of government coalitions typically adopts the same approach, except that political leaders and parties are making the choices on cabinet formation once the votes are counted.
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