Rules, Choice and Strategy

Rules, Choice and Strategy

The Political Economy of Italian Electoral Reform

The Locke Institute series

Ram Mudambi, Pietro Maria Navarra and Giuseppe Sobbrio

This topical book analyses the change of electoral rules in Italy from proportional representation toward plurality. While Italy is used as the illustrative case, the analysis has far-ranging theoretical and practical implications, and will therefore be of interest to academics and researchers of political economy, constitutionalism and public choice.

Chapter 5: Information and Voting in Municipal Elections

Ram Mudambi, Pietro Maria Navarra and Giuseppe Sobbrio

Subjects: economics and finance, public choice theory, politics and public policy, public choice


As persuasively argued by Stigler (1971), indirect democracy naturally results in elected representatives with a considerable latitude in interpreting the wishes of their constituents. This suggests two important measuring rods that may be used to compare electoral systems. The first is the amount of information that the systems engender amongst voters. The second is the level of interest that they elicit from the voters. As Reisman (1990) points out, a well-informed and committed electorate is better able to exercise rational choice and consequently is less likely to have its wishes thwarted by elected representatives. It can also be hypothesised that increased voter information and commitment may reduce ‘blind’ loyalty towards political parties. This should benefit voters by causing a fall in parties’ positional rents. Proportionality may reduce the impact of voter mobility (Galeotti, 1994), but it may also increase the information and commitment of voters. Thus its overall effect is ambiguous and needs to be determined empirically. In this chapter we have two objectives. The first is an attempt to compare voter information and commitment empirically under the systems of plurality and proportionality. We examine the case of Sicilian elections, where the electoral rules were recently altered to move the system towards plurality. It therefore provides us with ‘experimental’ data with which to compare the two systems. We use Olson’s (1965) theory of groups, which suggests an inverse relationship between group size and individual information levels as a theoretical basis with which to construct a proxy for information....

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