Making Electoral Democracy Work

Andre Blais
André Blais

by André Blais, Professor at the Université de Montréal

Making Electoral Democracy Work (MEDW) is an international collaborative project that brings together an exceptional team of political scientists, economists, and psychologists from Canada, Europe, and the United States. It is the most ambitious study ever undertaken of the impact of electoral rules on the functioning of democracy. It is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (CAD $3,700,000 from 2009 to 2016).

The goal of the MEDW project is to examine how the rules of the game (especially the electoral system) and the electoral context (especially the competitiveness and salience of the election) influence the dynamic and reciprocal relationship between voters and parties. To do so, the study is looking at virtually all elections held in Canada, France, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland between 2010 and 2015 (across various levels of government). The analyses are then completed by laboratory and online experiments.

More specifically, the MEDW project consists of three components:

  1. An analysis of party strategies through a systematic content analysis of campaigns materials (TV ads, newspaper ads, and manifestos), as well as semi-directed interviews with campaign managers;
  2. An analysis of voter behavior through online pre- and post-election panel surveys;
  3. A series of laboratory experiments designed to complement the analyses of the two first components.

Interested scholars might access most of the data already collected. Requests, including an abstract of a potential publication making use of these data, should be sent to the project director, André Blais (

The MEDW project organizes various scientific events during major social sciences conferences such as a Pre-APSA Annual Meeting Workshops or ECPR General Conference Panels. Last March, we held the Montreal Voting Experiment Workshop. This workshop aimed at presenting latest laboratory, field and survey experiments related to elections. With 36 papers presented and about 70 participants from the US, the UK, Canada, Germany, France, Spain, Sweden, and the Netherlands, the workshop was a huge success (see the full program, An edited book gathering the best contributions to this workshop is currently under contract with Springer Press.

The MEDW project also wants to foster a dialogue with the policy community and civil society organizations about our results and their implications for the design of electoral institutions. For this reason, we are co-organizing the present Pre-IPSA workshop on the challenges of electoral democracy. We would like to stimulate an open discussion of proposals for institutional reform to enhance the performance of contemporary democracies. If you are you a member of a political party or work for an NGO that is interested in getting involved in the project, you are invited to contact André Blais (

As part of this effort, we are also maintaining a blog on elections and democracy where we discuss recent elections and post summaries of publications on the topic.

For more information about the MEDW project, including a presentation of the team, the list of publications based on the project’s data, and a full description of the data collected, please visit

If you enjoyed this blog entry, you may be interested in a similar article: Repoliticising and redemocratising local democracy and the public realm: why we need councillors and councils by Colin Copus, David Sweeting and Melvin Wingfield.

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