On elections and voting behavior
“Cycles in Politics: Wavelet Analysis of Political Time-Series,” with Luís Aguiar-Conraria and Maria Joana Soares, American Journal of Political Science 56(2): 500-518 (April 2012).
Spectral analysis and ARMA models have been the most common weapons of choice for the detection of cycles in political time-series. Controversies about cycles, however, tend to revolve about an issue that both techniques are badly equipped to address: the possibility of irregular cycles without ﬁxed periodicity throughout the entire time-series. This has led to two main consequences. On the one hand, proponents of cyclical theories have often dismissed established statistical techniques. On the other hand, proponents of established techniques have dismissed the possibility of cycles without ﬁxed periodicity. Wavelets allow the detection of transient and coexisting cycles and structural breaks in periodicity. In this paper, we present the tools of wavelet analysis and apply them to the study to two lingering puzzles in the political science literature: the existence to cycles in election returns in the United States and in the severity of major power wars.
“Experimental Evidence that Quorum Rules Discourage Turnout and Promote Election Boycotts,” with Luís Aguiar-Conraria and Christoph Vanberg, Experimental Economics 19 (4): 886-909 (December 2016).
Many democratic decision making institutions involve quorum rules. Such rules are commonly motivated by concerns about the “legitimacy” or “representativeness” of decisions reached when only a subset of eligible voters participates. A prominent example of this can be found in the context of direct democracy mechanisms, such as referenda and initiatives. We conduct a laboratory experiment to investigate the consequences of the two most common types of quorum rules: a participation quorum and an approval quorum. We find that both types of quora lead to lower participation rates, dramatically increasing the likelihood of full-fledged electoral boycotts on the part of those who endorse the Status Quo. This discouraging effect is significantly larger under a participation quorum than under an approval quorum.
“From Ideology to Performance: Austerity and Government Defection in the 2014 European Parliament Elections.” Electoral Studies 44: 492-503 (December 2016).
The notion that domestic responses to financial crises are constrained in a way that limits the options available to national governments is not new. However, the last term of the European Parliament was a period when this reality was brought home to European electorates with previously unseen potency. This study explores the implications of this for the logic of voting in the 2014 European elections. Defection from government parties in EP elections is known to result from a combination of sincere/ideological and performance/protest voting logics. However, this study argues that fiscal tightening policies functioned, in the most affected countries, as a signal leading voters to discount the ideological positions of parties and to behave mostly under a pure protest logic..
On public opinion and political attitudes
“Economic Evaluations, Procedural Fairness, and Satisfaction with Democracy,” Political Research Quarterly 69 (3), 522-553.
Although political support for political authorities, institutions, and even regimes is affected by the delivery of positive economic outcomes, we know that judgments on authorities are also made on the basis of several other aspects that fall into the general theme of “procedural fairness.” So far, most of the literature examining satisfaction with democracy has, from this point of view, focused on the direct effects of both economic and procedural fairness indicators or evaluations. This study takes as its starting point a large number of studies in social psychology showing that procedural fairness moderates the effects of outcome favorability in the explanation of citizens’ reactions to authorities. It expands those findings to the macro-political level, using representative samples of European populations in 29 countries. It reveals that the general depiction of satisfaction with the way democracies work in practice as a fundamentally “performance-driven attitude” needs to qualified: economic evaluations matter, but they do not matter in the same way in all contexts and for all people, with procedural fairness playing a relevant moderating role in this respect. .
“Government Effectiveness and Support for Democracy,” European Journal of Political Research, 53(1): 77-97 (2014).
Diffuse support for democracy, as captured in mass surveys, tends to be treated as impervious to regime performance. Such findings are often presented as a confirmation of the basic distinction between “diffuse” and “specific” support as proposed by David Easton. This study argues that this line of argument stems from an incomplete reading of important aspects of Easton’s theorization about the relationship between system outputs and diffuse support. Using multilevel models, evidence from more than 100 surveys in close to 80 countries, and different measures of democratic support, it is shown that government effectiveness is the strongest macro-level predictor of support. In democratic regimes, government effectiveness, understood as the quality of policy-making formulation and implementation, is linked to higher levels of support for democracy. Furthermore, in non-democracies, effectiveness and support for democracy are, under some model specifications, negatively related.
“How People Understand Democracy: A Social Dominance Approach,” with Besir Ceka, in Mónica Ferrín and Hanspeter Kriesi (eds.), How Europeans View and Evaluate Democracy. Oxford:Oxford University Press (2016).
What does “democracy” mean to people? Do different individuals hold different views about what democracy is or should be? What explains those differences? This article looks into these questions and gives an account of the sources and explanations of different understandings of democracy among Europeans. We advance a basic and simple argument. Individuals that came to acquire a privileged position in society have an interest in defending the political and institutional status quo. Since “democracy” can be understood in different ways, with some understandings closer and some further from that status quo, social status and social hierarchies help determine which version of democracy people come to endorse. In other words, people who enjoy privileged positions in society are more likely to espouse a conception of “democracy” consistent with the political status quo than individuals with lower social status. We rely on the 6th round of ESS surveys from 29 European countries using multilevel models in order to test the hypotheses that result from the main theoretical argument.
Constitutional politics and regimes
“Government Survival in Semi-Presidential Regimes,” with Jorge M. Fernandes, European Journal of Political Research, 55 (1): 61-80.
As semi-presidentialism has become increasingly common in European democracies, so have the debates about the consequences of several of its political and institutional features. In particular, in those regimes, cohabitation between presidents and cabinets of different parties and cabinet dismissal powers on the part of presidents are thought to be a source of inter-branch conflict and government instability. However, so far, most empirical work on government survival has failed to confirm any of these expectations. This article addresses this disjuncture between theory and empirical results by making a twofold contribution. First, it takes into account the internal diversity within semi-presidentialism, modeling the implications for government survival of different configurations between presidential powers’ of cabinet dismissal, parliament dissolution and cohabitation in European semi-presidential systems. Second, it reconsiders traditional government survival using the competing risks framework by adding a distinction between two different types of non-electoral replacement: those where replacements imply a change in the party of the prime minister and those where they do not. Once such an approach is adopted, that presidential powers of parliamentary dissolution and cabinet dismissal indeed emerge as highly relevant for explaining government survival in these regimes.
“Explaining the Constitutionalisation of Social Rights: Portuguese Hypotheses and a Cross-National Test“, in Denis Gallingan and Mila Versteeg (eds.), Social and Political Foundations of Constitutions. New York: Cambridge University Press).
The most enduring originality of the Portuguese Constitution promulgated in 1976 was the extent to which it recognized and entrenched social welfare rights. The constitutionalisation of these rights has been mostly discussed in terms of its consequences, both in normative and (less often) empirical terms. In this paper, we shift attention to the causes of such constitutionalisation. We argue that the extreme lengths to which constitution-makers went in entrenching social rights in Portugal results from a combination of factors: the nature of the Portuguese regime change in 1974-76 and its consequences in the balance of powers between political and societal actors; the legal traditions and values prevalent in Portuguese society; the legacy of Social Catholicism; and the prevalent Zeitgeist. In the first part of the paper, we analyze the Portuguese case from these different points of view. In the second part of the paper, we test the resulting hypotheses using statistical methods, resorting to a data set on the constitutionalisation of social rights in the current constitutions of the world.
On Portuguese politics
“The Elections of the Great Recession in Portugal: Performance Voting under a Blurred Responsibility for the Economy,” Journal of Elections, Public Opinion & Parties, 24 (2): 180-202.
This article discusses the basic patterns of voting behaviour in the most recent elections in Portugal. These elections were fought under one of the most profound economic crises in the country’s four decades of democracy, after a bailout agreement with the EU and the IMF, and under an unusually high level of campaign polarization around the issues of economic austerity and liberalization. First, the article examines whether this context ended up being favourable to “performance” voting or, instead, to an enhanced importance of position issues, particularly those related to the role of the state in the economy and welfare provision. Second, it examines how the context of the Great Recession and the European sovereign debt crisis created opportunities for incumbents to use blame-shifting and blame-sharing strategies, and the extent to which voters’ ambivalence about who to hold responsible for the sorry state of the economy was consequential for vote choices, either by directly affecting them or by moderating the relationship between economic perceptions and the vote.
“Sovereign Debt and Governance Failures: Portuguese Democracy and the Financial Crisis,” with Luís de Sousa and Luciano Amaral, American Behavioral Scientist, 58 (12): 1517-1541.
International economic crises are critical periods for any political regime. The 2008 global financial crisis brought to the surface several weak spots in the institutional performance of various southern European democracies. Portugal was no exception. Government attempts to tackle its negative externalities through a series of austerity measures did not prove successful on various grounds. Poor scoring in the economy generated social unrest. This article tries to assess the reaction of the Portuguese citizenry to the symptoms of failure in economic governance, particularly in what concerns their attitudes vis-à-vis the political realm by using different survey data sets. The analysis reveals that the decline in economic performance and in quality of governance is clearly reflected in citizens’ rising discontent with the performance of democracy and suggests even negative spillover effects for regime support. The available data also suggest that any expectations that the economic crisis might have ignited in citizens’ engagement in political issues seem only partially fulfilled..