January 24th, Academic talk by Michael Becher

January 24, 2019 Campus

TSE careers is glad to welcome Michael Becher , Associate Professor in Political Sciences at The Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST) who will give a lecture on democraty “Better democracy through Institutional change? Electoral reform and democratic trade-offs" to TSE Students.




While electoral system reform is often advocated to improve the functioning of democracy, well-known empirical challenges make it difficult for social scientists to credibly asses the effects of electoral institutions. Leveraging an arguably exogenous component of two major electoral reforms, we examine the effect of electoral institutions on two important features of political representation that are often studied separately: policy responsiveness and the quality of legislators. Theoretically, we show that while a proportional electoral system is better than a majoritarian one at representing popular preferences in some contexts, this advantage can come at the price of undermining the selection of good politicians. To empirically assess the relevance of this trade-off, we analyze an unusually controlled electoral reform in Switzerland early in the twentieth century. To account for endogeneity, we exploit variation in the intensive margin of the reform, which introduced proportional representation, based on administrative constraints and data on voter preferences. A difference-in-difference analysis finds that higher reform intensity increases the policy congruence between legislators and the electorate and reduces legislative effort. Contemporary evidence from the European Parliament supports this conclusion.