Comparative Study of Electoral Systems

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The Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) is a collaborative research project among national election studies around the world. Participating countries and polities include a common module of survey questions in their national post-election studies. The resulting data are collated together along with voting, demographic, district and macro variables into one dataset allowing comparative analysis of voting behavior from a multilevel perspective.

The CSES is published as a free, public dataset. The project is administered by the CSES Secretariat, a joint effort between the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan and the GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences in Germany.

Aims and content of the study

The CSES project was founded in 1994 with two major aims. The first was to promote international collaboration between national election studies. The second was to allow researchers to study variations in political institutions, especially electoral systems, and their effects on individual attitudes and behaviors, especially turnout and vote choice.

CSES datasets contain variables at three levels. The first is micro-level variables which are answered by respondents during post-election surveys in each included country. The second is district-level variables which contain election results from the electoral districts that survey respondents are situated in. The third is macro-level variables containing information about the country context and electoral system, as well as aggregate data such as economic indicators and democracy indices. This nested data structure, as depicted in Figure 1, allows for multilevel analysis.

Figure 1: Visualization of CSES multilevel data structure

A new thematic module is devised by the CSES Planning Committee every five years. Between the final releases of the complete modules, CSES also disseminates advance releases of datasets periodically, which include partial data for modules that have not been fully released yet.

Survey data collection for module 1 was conducted between 1996 and 2001 and focuses on system performance. The module allows investigation of the impact of electoral institutions on citizens’ political cognition and behavior as well as of the nature of political and social cleavages and alignment. Furthermore, it enables research about citizens’ evaluation of democratic institutions and processes. Module 1 includes 39 election studies conducted in 33 countries.

Survey data collection for module 2 was conducted between 2001 and 2006 and focuses on accountability and representation. It addresses the contrast between the view that elections are a mechanism to hold government accountable and the view that they are a means to ensure that citizens’ views and interests are properly represented in the democratic process. Module 2 includes 41 election studies conducted in 38 countries.

Survey data collection for module 3 was conducted between 2006 and 2011. The module allows investigating the meaningfulness of electoral choices and, accordingly, focuses on a major aspect of electoral research: the contingency in choice of available options. Module 3 includes 50 election studies conducted in 41 countries.

Survey data collection for module 4 was conducted between 2011 and 2016 and focuses on distributional politics and social protection. The main topics investigated are voters’ preferences for public policy and the mediating factors of political institutions and voting behavior.[1] Module 4 includes 45 election studies conducted in 39 countries.

Survey data collection for module 5 is conducted between 2016 and 2021 and focuses on the electorate's attitudes towards political elites, on the one hand, and towards "out groups", on the other hand. It thus enables research on attitudes and voting behavior in the context of a rise of parties campaigning on anti-establishment messages and in opposition to "out groups".[2]

A complete table of all variables available across modules can be found on the CSES website.

Countries in the study

Module 1 Module 2 Module 3 Module 4
Albania Albania 2005
Argentina Argentina 2015
Australia Australia 1996 2004 2007 2013
Austria Austria 2008 2013
Belarus Belarus 2001 2008
Belgium Belgium 1999,1999[3] 2003
Brazil Brazil 2002 2006,2010 2014
Bulgaria Bulgaria 2001 2014
Canada Canada 1997 2004 2008 2011, 2015
Chile Chile 1999 2005 2009
Croatia Croatia 2007
Czech Republic Czech Republic 1996 2002 2006,2010 2013
Denmark Denmark 1998 2001 2007
Estonia Estonia 2011
Finland Finland 2003 2007,2011 2015
France France 2002 2007 2012
Germany Germany 1998 2002,2002[4] 2005,2009 2013
United Kingdom Great Britain 1997 2005 2015
Greece Greece 2009 2012, 2015
Hong Kong Hong Kong 1998,2000 2004 2008 2012
Hungary Hungary 1998 2002
Iceland Iceland 1999 2003 2007,2009 2013
Republic of Ireland Ireland 2002 2007 2011
Israel Israel 1996 2003 2006 2013
Italy Italy 2006
Japan Japan 1996 2004 2007 2013
Kenya Kenya 2013
Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyzstan 2005
Latvia Latvia 2010 2011, 2014
Lithuania Lithuania 1997
Mexico Mexico 1997,2000 2003 2006,2009 2012,2015
Montenegro Montenegro 2012
Netherlands Netherlands 1998 2002 2006,2010
New Zealand New Zealand 1996 2002 2008 2011,2014
Norway Norway 1997 2001 2005,2009 2013
Peru Peru 2000,2001 2006 2011 2016
Philippines Philippines 2004 2010 2016
Poland Poland 1997 2001 2005,2007 2011
Portugal Portugal 2002[5] 2002,[6] 2005 2009 2015
Romania Romania 1996 2004 2009 2012, 2014
Russia Russia 1999,[7] 2000[8] 2004
Serbia Serbia 2012
Slovakia Slovakia 2010 2016
Slovenia Slovenia 1996 2004 2008 2011
South Africa South Africa 2009 2014
South Korea South Korea 2000 2004 2008 2012
Spain Spain 1996,2000 2004 2008
Sweden Sweden 1998 2002 2006 2014
Switzerland Switzerland 1999 2003 2007 2011
Taiwan Taiwan 1996 2001,2004 2008 2012
Thailand Thailand 2001 2007 2011
Turkey Turkey 2011 2015
Ukraine Ukraine 1998
United States United States of America 1996 2004 2008 2012
Uruguay Uruguay 2009

A frequently updated election study table across all modules can be found on the CSES website.

Data access

CSES data are available publicly and are free of charge. Data releases are non-proprietary – in other words the data are made available to the public without preferential or advance access to anyone. Data is available in multiple formats including for common statistical packages like STATA, SPSS, SAS and R. The data can be downloaded from the CSES website as well as via the GESIS data catalogue. The GESIS online analysis tool ZACAT can furthermore be used to browse and explore the dataset.

Organizational structure and funding

The CSES Secretariat

In conjunction with national election study collaborators, the CSES Secretariat administers the CSES project. It consists of staff from the GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences in Germany and the University of Michigan, Ann-Arbor in the United States. The Secretariat is responsible for compiling the final CSES dataset by harmonizing the single country studies into a cross-national dataset. It is also responsible for collecting the district and macro data, for data documentation, and for ensuring data quality. The Secretariat, furthermore, maintains the CSES website, promotes the project, provides support to the user community, and organizes conferences and project meetings.

The Planning Committee, collaborators and the CSES Plenary

The CSES research agenda, study design, and questionnaires are developed by an international committee of leading scholars in political science, sociology, and survey methodology. This committee is known as the CSES Planning Committee. At the beginning of each new module a new Planning Committee is established. Nominations for the Planning Committee come from the user community, with membership of the Committee then being approved by the CSES Plenary Meeting. The Plenary Meeting is made up of national collaborators from each national election study involved in the CSES. Ideas for new modules can be submitted by anyone. More information on the current planning committee, its members, and subcommittee reports, as well as on past Planning Committees can be found on the CSES website. A list of country collaborators which participate in CSES can also be found on the CSES website.

Funding and support

The work of the CSES Secretariat is funded by the American National Science Foundation, the GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences and the University of Michigan’s Center for Political Studies along with in-kind support from participating election studies, additional organizations that sponsor planning meetings and conferences, and the many organizations that fund election studies by CSES collaborators.

Klingemann Prize

Each year, the CSES awards the GESIS Klingemann Prize for the best CSES scholarship (paper, book, dissertation, or other scholarly work, broadly defined). The award is sponsored by the GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences and is named in honor of Professor Dr. Hans-Dieter Klingemann, co-founder of the CSES, an internationally renowned political scientist who made significant contributions to cross-national electoral research. Nominated works must make extensive use of CSES and have a publication date in the calendar year prior to the award, either in print or online.

Winners of the Klingemann Prize

2018: Blais, A., Guntermann, E., & Bodet, M. (2017). Linking Party Preferences and the Composition of Government: A New Standard for Evaluating the Performance of Electoral Democracy. Political Science Research and Methods, 5(2), 315-331.

2017: Dani Marinova (Autonomous University of Barcelona) (2016). "Coping with Complexity: How Voters Adapt to Unstable Parties". ECPR Press.

2016: Kasara Kimuli (Columbia University) and Pavithra Suryanarayan (Johns Hopkins University) (2015). "When Do the Rich Vote Less Than the Poor and Why? Explaining Turnout Inequality across the World". American Journal of Political Science, 59(3), 613-627. doi:10.1111/ajps.12134

2015: Noam Lupu (University of Wisconsin-Madison) (2015). "Party Polarization and Mass Partisanship: A Comparative Perspective". Political Behavior, 37(2), 331-356. doi:10.1007/s11109-014-9279-z

2014: Richard R. Lau (Rutgers University), Parina Patel (Georgetown University), Dalia F. Fahmy (Long Island University) and Robert R. Kaufman (Rutgers University) (2014). "Correct Voting Across Thirty-Three Democracies: A Preliminary Analysis". British Journal of Political Science, 44(02), 239-259. doi:10.1017/S0007123412000610

2013: Mark Andreas Kayser (Hertie School of Governance) and Michael Peress (University of Rochester) (2012). "Benchmarking across Borders: Electoral Accountability and the Necessity of Comparison". American Political Science Review, 106(03), 661-684. doi:10.1017/S0003055412000275

2012: Russell J. Dalton (University of California, Irvine) David M. Farrell (University College Dublin) and Ian McAllister (Australian National University) (2011). "Political Parties and Democratic Linkage. How Parties Organize Democracy". Oxford University Press.

Further resources

More information about the CSES can be obtained from the CSES website. CSES also maintains an active social media presence on Twitter (@csestweets) and on Facebook. The project maintains a blog which provides a glimpse into the work of the CSES project and its associated scholars and user community. The CSES Blog presents research using CSES data, introduces election study collaborators from around the world, offers updates on data collection from the field and provides updates about the CSES and comparative political science research more generally.

CSES Bibliography

The CSES Bibliography cites scholarly publications and presentations known to utilize the CSES.

External links

  • Comparative Study of Electoral Systems
  • CSES at GESIS – Leibniz-Institute for the Social Sciences
  • CSES Blog


  1. ^ Partial source of text segments about module 1 to module 4: [1], accessed June 12, 2017
  2. ^ Partial source of text segment about module 5: [2], accessed June 12, 2017.
  3. ^ Two election studies were run in Belgium in 1999 - one in Belgium-Flanders, and one in Belgium-Walloon.
  4. ^ Two election studies were run in Germany in 2002 - one was a telephone study, and one was a mail-back study.
  5. ^ The Portugal 2002 election study occurred during the transition between module 1 and module 2, and included both modules.
  6. ^ The Portugal 2002 election study occurred during the transition between module 1 and module 2, and included both modules.
  7. ^ Russia 1999 and 2000: These two years were a panel study, with 1999 being for the parliamentary election and 2000 being for the presidential election.
  8. ^ Russia 1999 and 2000: These two years were a panel study, with 1999 being for the parliamentary election and 2000 being for the presidential election.
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