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date: 27 November 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Understanding the effects of electoral systems is of great importance to both scholars and practitioners, and experimental research can be a valuable tool in pursuit of this goal. However, scholars need to think carefully about how to utilize experimental research, especially because the variation in electoral systems in which we are most interested—at the national level—is often impossible or unethical to manipulate. To inform how experiments and related methods of causal inference are then still able to facilitate investigations into the roots and consequences of electoral systems, we situate experimental research within a broader account of research design in the study of electoral systems, summarize existing experimental work, and discuss future avenues. We call for carefully crafting experimental tests in the laboratory and for using “naturally” occurring variation in existing institutions at lower levels of the electoral system.

Keywords: laboratory experiments, field experiments, natural experiments, causal inference, identification

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