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Recent works

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.

"Forecasting Spanish Elections", with Luís Aguiar-Conraria and Michael S. Lewis-Beck International Journal of Forecasting 28 (4): 769-776 (2012), a special issue on "Election Forecasting in Neglected Democracies," edited by Michael S. Lewis-Beck and Éric Bélanger). 

The behavior of the individual Spanish voter has come to be rather well-understood, thanks to a growing research literature. However, no models have appeared to explain, or to forecast, national election outcomes. The presence of this research gap contrasts sharply with the extensive election forecasting work done on other leading Western democracies. Here we fill this gap. The model, developed from core political economy theory, is parsimonious but statistically robust.  Further, it promises considerable prediction accuracy of Spanish general election outcomes, six months before the contest actually occurs. After presenting the model, and carrying out extensive regression diagnostics, we offer an ex ante forecast of the 2012 general election.

"Referendum Design, Quorum Rules, and Turnout," with Luís Aguiar-ConrariaPublic Choice 144 (1-2): 63-81 (2010)

In this article, we focus on the consequences of quorum requirements for turnout in referendums. We use a rational choice, decision theoretic voting model to demonstrate that participation quorums change the incentives some electors face, inducing those who oppose changes in the status quo and expect to be in the minority to abstain. As a result, paradoxically, participation quorums decrease electoral participation. We test our model’s predictions using data for all referendums held in current European Union countries from 1970 until 2007, and show that the existence of a participation quorums increases abstention by more than ten percentage points.

We take a new look at electoral sectionalism and dynamic nationalization in presidential elections. We treat this problem as one of synchronism of electoral cycles, which we estimate by using wavelets. After providing a self-contained introduction to wavelet analysis, we use it to assess the degree and the dynamics of electoral synchronization in the United States. We determine clusters of states where electoral swings have been more and less in sync with each other and with the national cycle. Then, we analyze how the degree of synchronism of electoral cycles has changed through time, answering questions as to when, to what extent, and where has a tendency towards a "universality of political trends" in presidential elections been more strongly felt. We present evidence strongly in favor of an increase in the dynamic nationalization of presidential elections taking place since the 1950s, largely associated with a convergence in most (if not all) Southern states.

"How Quorum Rules Distort Referendum Outcomes: Evidence from a Pivotal Voter Model," with Luís Aguiar-ConrariaEuropean Journal of Political Economy 26 (4): 541-557 (2010).

In many jurisdictions, whether referendum results are binding depends on legally defined quorum requirements. We use a pivotal voter model to examine the consequences of such requirements. We find that, although quorum rules differ in consequences, a status quo bias that is usually attributed need not be present and that quorum rules may work against the status quo. The rules can also both favor minorities and reduce voter turnout. Because quorum rules can create situations in which the secrecy of the vote is compromised, the door is opened to undemocratic forms of social and political pressure.

"Political Institutions and the Social Anchoring of the Vote" (under review).

The social anchoring of the vote seems to have experienced a significant decline in Western democracies, arguably as a result of social modernization. However, this emphasis on the search for general trends has left a blind-spot in the literature. Why do party constituencies in some democracies turn out to be more socially heterogeneous than in others? Why are we better able to predict voting choices on the basis of socio-demographic characteristics of voters in some countries than in others?  In order to answer that question, after discussing problems in the measurement of structural voting, this paper adopts a measure proposed by Huber (2011) and uses data from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems surveys to test several hypotheses concerning how the social anchoring of vote in different political systems might be related to the incentives provided by political institutions, the consequences of social modernization, and the timing of democratization.

"Economy, Ideology, and the Elephant in the Room: A Research Note on the Elections of the Great Recession in Europe."

The electoral performance of incumbent parties in legislative elections in Europe since the beginning of the "Great Recession" has been described in two contrasting ways. For some, it has been characterized by an "anti-leftist" wave, signalling a change in voters fundamental preferences against leftist parties and policies. For others, ideology has had little to do with recent events: instead, voters have simply punished incumbents for bad performances and rewarded them for good ones, as a simple "retrospective voting" theory would suggest. Looking at the electoral performance of Prime Ministers' parties from January 2008 until today, the paper shows that results are, instead, most compatible with a "luxury parties" hypothesis: under conditions of low or negative growth, leftist incumbents have done significantly worse than rightist ones, while, for those countries where growth resumed, leftist incumbents have done significantly better. Furthermore, the paper suggests that part of the continued decline in the electoral performance of incumbents in many countries observed until today is fundamentally a Eurozone phenomenon: voters in those countries seem to be turning their dissatisfaction with the protracted financial, currency, and political crisis in the Eurozone to the target more at hand - i.e., national governments - punishing them increasingly and above and beyond what developments in the domestic economic would justify.

On public opinion and political attitudes

"Government Effectiveness and Support for Democracy," forthcoming in European Journal of Political Research.

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.

This paper focuses on citizens’ attitudes towards the transfer of policy prerogatives from the national government to European institutions on specific domains. We approach this issue from two different perspectives. First, using a cross-sectional analysis of Eurobarometer and Candidate Eurobarometer data on all EU27 member states, we test hypotheses about what explains why citizens prefer the centralization of policy-making in supra-national authorities in some areas but not in others, while also addressing explanations as to why citizens in some countries are more supportive of policy integration in general than in others. Second, using a pooled panel time-series dataset on aggregate support for policy integration in the EU12 countries, we analyze trends from the late 1980s until today in ten selected policy areas, in order to determine what has affected changes through time in levels of support for policy integration.

Why do some citizens support the notion of having the institutions of the European Union setting and implementing policy in a variety of areas while others reject it?  This paper argues that this dimension of European attitudes is, unlike others, specifically political, prospective and impinging on the input-oriented legitimacy of the EU. Thus, as such, it is unlikely to be related to the real or perceived economic costs and benefits of integration. Instead, we suggest that support for an enlarged scope of policy-making in Europe is much more likely to be hampered by the input-legitimacy deficits of the EU. We test this hypothesis by using data on 16 surveys conducted in EU member-states under the IntUne project. Taking into account the clustered nature of the data, we start by examining the role of a set of individual-level variables that capture different approaches to public opinion about Europe, and then improve the model’s specification by introducing several individual-level interaction effects, contextual factors and cross-level interactions.

"Room for Manoueuvre: Euroscepticism in the Portuguese Parties and Electorate," with Marina Costa LoboSouth European Society and Politics 16 (1): 81-104 (2011). Also as a chapter in this book.

This article approaches euroscepticism from the perspective of party positions and mass-level attitudes. It documents the nature and evolution of party euroscepticism from 1976 to 2005. Although the poles of party-based euroscepticism can be found, predictably, at the extremes of the party system, there is also a dynamic and contingent element to party positions that can only be accounted for on the basis of a strategic explanation. It also shows that, whenever parties attempted to mobilise voters on the basis of a eurosceptic discourse, voters responded to such attempts. Under those conditions, citizens' attitudes vis-à-vis the EC/EU, in terms of both the economic and the political consequences of integration, emerged as a relevant electoral cleavage in Portuguese politics.

On judicial politics and constitutional design

"Explaining the Constitutionalisation of Social Rights: Portuguese Hypotheses and a Cross-National Test (a revised version is forthcoming in The Social and Political Foundations of Constitutions, an edited volume published by 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

This article discusses the 2011 legislative election results in Portugal and the context in which they took place. After describing how the economic and financial crisis unfolded, leading to the European Union/International Monetary Fund bailout, it analyses the campaign strategies of the major parties. On the basis of a post-election survey, the article then discusses how successful these strategies were, and concludes by analysing the aftermath of the election in terms of government formation.