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Chapter

Cover Politics

12. Votes, Elections, Legislatures, and Legislators  

This chapter explores the interrelationships among votes, elections, legislatures, and legislators in the context of politics. It first considers the two basic paradoxes of voting before discussing elections and their outcomes, which tend to have different virtues: stronger government versus more representative government. It then describes the functions of legislatures as well as measures for establishing quotas to increase gender equality in legislative recruitment. It also introduces a classification of legislatures based upon their capability to stand up to the executive branch of government before concluding with an analysis of the internal structure of legislatures as well as the backgrounds of members of parliament in various countries, focusing in particular on the criticism that lawmakers constitute a ‘political class’.

Chapter

Cover Introduction to Politics

11. Votes, Elections, Legislatures, and Legislators  

Peter Ferdinand

This chapter examines some of the central issues associated with voting and electoral systems, along with the functions of legislatures. It begins by discussing the two paradoxes of voting. First, the huge number of citizens in any modern state means that no individual’s vote is likely to make the difference between two or more choices, making it potentially ‘irrational’ for any individual to bother to vote at all. Yet votes make democracy possible. The second voting paradox concerns the difficulty of relying upon votes to determine the objective preferences of the public. The chapter proceeds by considering measures that aim to establish quotas to increase gender equality in legislative recruitment. It also describes different types of legislatures and the internal structure of legislatures. Finally, it analyses trends in the backgrounds of legislators in various countries, specifically focusing upon the criticism that they constitute a ‘political class’.

Chapter

Cover Introduction to Politics

11. Votes, Elections, Legislatures, and Legislators  

Peter Ferdinand

This chapter examines some of the central issues associated with voting and electoral systems, along with the functions of legislatures. It begins by discussing the two paradoxes of voting. First, the huge number of citizens in any modern state means that no individual’s vote is likely to make the difference between two or more choices, making it potentially ‘irrational’ for any individual to bother to vote at all. Yet votes make democracy possible. The second voting paradox concerns the difficulty of relying upon votes to determine the objective preferences of the public. The chapter proceeds by considering measures that aim to establish quotas to increase gender equality in legislative recruitment. It also describes different types of legislatures and the internal structure of legislatures. Finally, it analyses trends in the backgrounds of legislators in various countries, specifically focusing upon the criticism that they constitute a ‘political class’.

Chapter

Cover Foundations of European Politics

5. Voting Decisions  

This chapter analyses how citizens in Europe vote across elections. Elections are an integral part of democracy as they allow citizens to shape collective decision-making. The chapter addresses the issue of trying to explain why people vote in the first place. It also looks at the inequality of turnout between citizens: why do some people just not bother to vote at all? The chapter also looks at different explanations of vote choice. This is achieved by introducing the proximity model of voting which assumes that voters and parties can be aligned on one ideological dimension. It presupposes that voters will vote for the party that most closely resembles their own ideological position. Complications can be added to this model, however, that consider the role of retrospective performance evaluations and affective attachments to social groups and political parties. The institutional context also needs to be considered, though, as this can influence voters’s decision-making.

Chapter

Cover Introduction to Politics

9. Political Culture and Non-Western Political Ideas  

Peter Ferdinand

This chapter begins by outlining the importance of poltical culture in structuring, but not determining, the behaviour of actors within individual political systems. It illustrates the persistence of its impact with the failure of Mao Zedong to eliminate traditional Chinese ways of thinking and create a wholly new political culture in the Cultural Revolution. On the other hand it cites fluctuations in Russian political culture over centuries to show that the perceived content of a particular political culture can be fundamentally contested and malleable, so that it does evolve. And it notes the recent claims of political leaders in Russia, China and India, amongst others, that their nations’ historical achievements raise them to the status of ‘civilization states’. One feature of a nation’s political culture is the recurring trends of issues and preoccupations in political thinking there. Then it goes on to examine issues in thinking in non-Western countries, that structure political attitudes and political behaviour differently from the West. It begins by looking at traditional notions of legitimate political authority in other regions of the world, particularly Asia, that preceded the arrival of Western colonialists. These often assumed more ‘organic’ and more segmented communities than would be associated with Western individualist ones influenced by the legacy of the French revolution. Then it considers more recent non-Western political thinking.

Chapter

Cover UK Politics

9. Communication and public opinion  

This chapter discusses the way in which political ideas are put forward and relates this to the forming and mobilization of political opinions. It looks the forms of communication used, the means of ‘media’ for transmission; the approach that political parties and government take towards it; and the influence it can exert from within the democratic system. The chapter looks at how people transmit information and how organizations do too. An important element of this discussion is how people form political opinions in the first place and how they make decisions based on them. A key question is: how can the right to vote be used to transmit and impact a political view point? The chapter also examines the role of social media and recent phenomena such as ‘fake news’. It also asks: how can public opinion be measured? The chapter provides a number of theoretical perspectives and real-life examples: the ‘Leveson Inquiry’ of 2011–12 and what it revealed about political communication and the online parliamentary petitioning process. Finally, the chapter explores a debate about whether the Internet has made political communication more supportive of democracy.

Chapter

Cover Comparative Politics

14. Party systems  

Daniele Caramani

This chapter examines how competition between political parties gives rise to different party systems. In liberal democracies, competition for power is based on popular votes. The shape and dynamics of party systems are determined by the electoral game, with parties as main actors. A party system is thus essentially the result of competitive interactions between parties. A party system has three main elements: which parties exist, how many parties exist and how big they are, and how parties behave. An obvious but important point is that party systems must be composed of more than one political party. The chapter begins with a discussion of the origins of party systems, followed by an analysis of the format of party systems, such as two-party systems and multiparty systems. It then considers the influence of the electoral system on party systems, before concluding with an assessment of the dynamics of party systems.

Chapter

Cover Comparative European Politics

3. Voting Behaviour  

Erik Tillman

This chapter examines theories and evidence of voting behaviour in Europe. Sociological models examine the role of political cleavages such as class in the development of long-term attachments between parties and voters. Rationalist models examine the sources of short-term changes in voting behaviour with spatial models focusing on the ideological congruence between parties and voters and performance voting models emphasizing evaluations of incumbent records in office. Recent decades have seen debates about a possible realignment of voter loyalties or a dealignment of voter attachments. The final section focuses on how the legacy of communism has structured the development of voting behaviour in East-Central Europe.

Chapter

Cover Comparative European Politics

4. Political Participation  

Patrick Bernhagen and Angelika Vetter

This chapter provides an overview of political participation, ranging from conventional forms such as voting at elections to less conventional forms such as attending a demonstration or boycotting a brand for political reasons. The authors look at how voter turnout and protest participation have developed in recent decades and review the main theoretical explanations for differences and trends in participation between social groups and across European democracies. The chapter also considers new opportunities for participation at the local level and asks whether these have the potential to ameliorate or exacerbate existing problems of unequal participation.

Chapter

Cover Comparative Politics

13. Party Systems  

Daniele Caramani

This chapter examines how competition between political parties gives rise to different party systems. In liberal democracies, competition for power is based on popular votes. The shape and dynamics of party systems are determined by the electoral game, with parties as main actors. A party system is thus essentially the result of competitive interactions between parties. A party system has three main elements: which parties exist, how many parties exist and how big they are, and how parties behave. An obvious but important point is that party systems must be composed of more than one political party. The chapter begins with a discussion of the origins of party systems, followed by an analysis of the format of party systems, such as two-party systems and multiparty systems. It then considers the influence of the electoral system on party systems, before concluding with an assessment of the dynamics of party systems.

Chapter

Cover Introduction to Politics

12. Political Parties  

Peter Ferdinand

This chapter deals with political parties: why they emerged, how they can be classified, what functions they perform, how they interact, and what challenges they are facing today. One of the paradoxes about democracies is that there is almost a unanimous consensus about the indispensability of political parties. On the other hand, the benefits of being a member of a political party are bound to be minuscule compared to the costs of membership. Thus it is irrational for people to join parties. They should only form (small) interest groups. The chapter first provides a historical background on the development of political parties before discussing their functions, such as legitimation of the political system, structuring the popular vote, and formulation of public policy. It then considers different types of political parties as well as the characteristics of party systems and concludes with an analysis of the problems facing political parties today.

Chapter

Cover UK Politics

7. Elections and voting  

This chapter looks at how voting helps people to take a direct role in politics. The chapter discusses the rules by which the electoral system operates. It discusses the different types of electoral systems used in the UK. It connects General Elections and the formation of government at the national level. The chapter then offers a number of theoretical perspectives from which to consider voting in terms of fairness, mandates, and effectiveness. The chapter looks at the impact of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011 and how the integrity of elections is maintained. Finally, it looks at the plan to equalize the size and reduce the number of UK parliamentary constituencies.

Chapter

Cover Politics

13. Political Parties  

This chapter deals with political parties, focusing on why they emerged, how they can be classified, what functions they perform, and how they interact. It identifies two phases in the development of political parties. The first parties were intended to structure the work of legislatures, and later evolved into mass parties to structure the votes of electors, catch-all parties to win more votes irrespective of ideological appeal, and cartel parties more dominated by party professionals. The chapter also considers seven functions typically carried out by a political party, irrespective of whether they operate in democracies or authoritarian regimes: legitimation of the political system, integration and mobilization of citizens, representation, structuring the popular vote, aggregation of diverse interests, recruitment of leaders for public office, and formulation of public policy. Finally, it discusses various types of party outside the West, party systems, and some of the challenges facing political parties today.

Chapter

Cover Introduction to Politics

12. Political Parties  

Peter Ferdinand

This chapter deals with political parties: why they emerged, how they can be classified, what functions they perform, how they interact, and what challenges they are facing today. One of the paradoxes about democracies is that there is almost a unanimous consensus about the indispensability of political parties. On the other hand, the benefits of being a member of a political party are bound to be minuscule compared to the costs of membership. Thus it is irrational for people to join parties. They should only form (small) interest groups. The chapter first provides a historical background on the development of political parties before discussing their functions, such as legitimation of the political system, structuring the popular vote, and formulation of public policy. It then considers different types of political parties as well as the characteristics of party systems and concludes with an analysis of the problems facing political parties today.

Chapter

Cover Comparative Politics

10. Elections and Referendums  

Michael Gallagher

This chapter focuses on the two main opportunities that people have to vote in most societies: elections and referendums. Elections are held to fill seats in parliaments or to choose a president, whereas referendums allow citizens to decide directly on some issue of policy. Elections are the cornerstone of representative democracy, and referendums are sometimes regarded as the equivalent of ‘direct democracy’. In practice, referendums are used only as an option in systems of representative democracy. The chapter first provides an overview of elections and electoral systems, focusing on electoral regulations and the main categories of electoral systems, namely single-member plurality, alternative vote, two-round system, and proportional representation. It then examines the rules under which elections are held, as well as the consequences of this variation. It also considers the use of the referendum and its potential impact on politics.

Chapter

Cover Global Politics

11. Conclusion Making Change  

This chapter highlights the importance of critical thinking as a vital tool in bringing about change in global politics. It explains how critical thinking allows people to make informed and well-reasoned decisions in situations such as jobs, voting, and being either right or wrong. Voting and the Covid-19 pandemic are some examples of everyday experiences affected by global politics, power relations, and political relationships. The chapter also clarifies how myth often recounts historical events in terms of patterned signs, symbols, or meanings instead of narrating as factual chronology. Moreover, it introduces Nesrine Malik’s four tools for thinking differently in and about global politics, and Karen Armstrong’s analysis of mythology that could assist in imagining new and beneficial political ideas and arrangements.

Chapter

Cover British Politics

4. What People Think and Do about Politics  

This chapter focuses on citizen attitudes, values, cultures, and behaviours, which underpin the British political system. Particularly important is voting for elected representatives, whether MPs, Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs), Members of the Senedd (MSs), Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly (MLAs), directly elected mayors, police and crime commissioners (PCCs), local councillors, or even parish councillors. Then there are extensive forms of political participation from citizens and groups, ranging from complaining to public authorities to protesting. Both voting and participation are linked to wider attitudes and beliefs about politics. The chapter also provides an understanding of the different forms of turbulence that have emerged in recent years, in particular since 2014, with the arrival of populist movements, and the more frequent use of referendums.

Chapter

Cover British Politics

6. The Media and Agenda-Setting  

Political Turbulence

This chapter addresses media in politics, including newspapers, television, the internet, and social media. It seeks to answer the question of how influential the media is over politics, in areas such as voting behaviour. This discussion gives a broad overview of politics and the media, about the agenda of politics and its framing, and what shapes it. The chapter then covers the classic question of the influence of the media in British politics. It also considers the importance of social media, and how it is now part of all media today, especially in relation to elections and referendums. Finally, the chapter looks at media and social media campaigning in elections. It introduces the concept of chaotic pluralism as a way of characterizing today's social media-dominated and fluid political environment.