Maxime Blanchard

Université Laval

Department of Political Science
Program: MA
Supervisor: Francois Gelineau
Start: 2017
End: 2019

Title: Crafting democracy : positional voting amid the 2003 institutional reform in Colombia.

Can institutional reforms induce change in the behavior of voters in emerging democracies ? Modernization theorists have long argued that political behavior is shaped by the enduring effects of long-term factors such as socialization processes and sociocultural contexts, which can hardly be changed to produce different outcomes. On the other hand, neo-institutional scholars claim that individuals merely react to the immediate incentive structure they are facing. Hence, for every single desired behavior to take form there would only need to put in place the institutional structure that creates the right incentives. Yet, neo-institutional accounts have so far found lukewarm support, at best, regarding their capacity to account for electoral behavior in emerging democracies. Using positional issue voting as our desired outcome, we intend to deepen our understanding of the impact of institutions on electoral behavior in emerging democracies by looking at the case of Colombia, were an electoral system reform was adopted in 2003 to rationalize what had became, at that point, a very chaotic party system. Using public opinion data collected among legislators and voters from 1998 to 2013, we assess the way in which the reform impacted voters’ propensity to issue a positional vote during legislative elections. Our project thus has the potential to contribute to two distinct scholarly debates, the first of which is the capacity of neo-institutional theories to account for electoral behavior in new democracies. The second contribution lies in providing new evidence regarding the capacity of voters in emerging democracies to issue a positional vote, as opposed to a merely retrospective vote.

Previous Awards
Methodological training grant (Political science department, Université Laval), 2018 ; Methodological training grant (CSDC), 2018 ; CROP - Élyse Turmel scholarship (Research Chair on democracy and parliamentary institutions), 2018 ; Academic excellence scholarship (Department of History, UQÀM), 2015.