Tuesday, 28 April 2015

World Values Survey @ the UN

By Pippa Norris (Harvard University)

An adapted version of this blog appeared in the Washington Post's Monkey Cage on April 28. 

This year sees the official end of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which have been the heart of the development agenda, as agreed by the world’s governments in the United Nations at the beginning of the century. This begs the question: What will succeed the MDGs and how will progress be monitored?

Members of the World Values Survey executive committee organised an expert meeting 
at the United Nations on Monday. Ronald Inglehart is speaking. (Photo by Pippa Norris)

The MDGs’ eight goals are measured through 21 targets and 60 indicators. Data assessing progress in achieving the MDGs suggest a mixed bag: some targets have been met, with progress since 1990 in child survival, literacy, and access to basic sanitation. Still, profound social disparities exist; so too does extreme poverty.[i] Proponents like Jeffrey Sachs press the case that technical know-how and learning can and has designed highly effective aid programs that save lives and strengthen development.[ii] By contrast, skeptics such as William Easterly claim that most large-scale aid projects are doomed to fail.[iii] Reductions in global poverty can also be attributed primarily to the remarkable economic growth improving the lives and security of millions living in China, rather than development aid per se. Most debate about aid effectiveness has focused on examining tangible local results attributable to specific projects, such as initiatives promoting girl’s schooling in Afghanistan, child immunizations against measles in Nepal, or the distribution of anti-malarial drugs and insecticide treated bed-nets in South Sudan. An extensive literature has sought to determine the broader impact of aid using national indicators, such as trends in poverty, child mortality, primary school completion rates, and the proportion of the population with access to clean water. 

As the era of the MDGs draws to an end, the international community is debating their replacement in 2016 by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is proposed to expand the number of goals, and also the statistical indicators and specific targets adopted to monitor progress. The plan has been criticized as a ‘Christmas tree’ where there are so many indicators that monitoring will be a nightmare, overwhelming the capacity of national statistical offices to generate reliable data in many developing countries.[iv] Statistics on many of the standard indicators used by the MDGs are incomplete, even concerning basic matters, such as conventional measures of poverty assessed by the proportion of the population living below US$1 a day. There is often a substantial time-lag between data collection and policy analysis needs. Moreover, poverty and human development are increasingly understood as multidimensional phenomena, where household access to cash income provides a poor proxy indicator of social deprivation, such as access to essential medicines, feelings of neighborhood security, or experience of lived poverty. Official agencies in many fragile states with displaced populations and least developed economies have limited or no access to reliable decennial Census data, Labor Force or multi-topic Household Surveys providing estimates of multidimensional aspects of poverty. There remain cross-national inconsistencies in harmonizing the definitions, sources, time-periods, and methods used to estimate progress towards the MDGs.[v]

In response, several UN bodies have suggested that the international community should supplement official statistics by incorporating various innovative data sources associated with the ‘Big Data’ revolution. Hence the report, A World that Counts, recommends: “Better data and statistics will help governments track progress and make sure their decisions are evidence-based; they can also strengthen accountability. This is not just about governments. International agencies, CSOs and the private sector should be involved. A true data revolution would draw on existing and new sources of data to fully integrate statistics into decision making, promote open access to, and use of, data and ensure increased support for statistical systems.”[vi]

As one important aspect of this data revolution, many of the long-established cross-national social surveys can play a vital role by generating robust and reliable data useful for monitoring the SDGs. This includes studies such as the World Values Survey, founded in 1981 and now covering around 100 societies, and thus the grand-daddy of comparative social and attitudinal surveys by non-profit international organizations. It can also engage the Global-barometers covering several major world regions, such as the Afro-Barometer, and commercial surveys, such as the Gallup World Poll

There are many advantages for the international community in tapping into reliable and well-established social surveys involving a representative sample of ordinary people living in each society. One is that these can furnish data on multidimensional experiences of lived poverty, such as self-reported access to clean water, to food security, and to medicine. Household access to cash income (such as living below US$1 a day) is an inadequate proxy for human development, especially in rural economies and exchange markets. Survey data can thereby enrich our understanding of the different types of severe challenges commonly facing poor households. Surveys are also well-designed to measure public perceptions of ordinary people, which is essential to monitor subjective feelings of security, attitudes towards social deprivation, or satisfaction with public services. In addition, reliable social survey data can also be disaggregated to examine inequalities among major social sectors, such as between women and men, young and old, as well as rural and low-income households. Concern about growing inequality within nations, even while GDP has risen, has pushed concern about this issue to the forefront of the development agenda.

At the same time official national statistical offices may be wary about using social surveys for several reasons. The size of the national samples used in most standard social surveys is far more limited than in official Household Surveys, or population estimates based on the official national Census. Nevertheless the sample size of 1,000 or more people in each society, used in social surveys, is widely accepted as standard in many public opinion polls and it is appropriate so long as the sampling method and fieldwork procedures are well-designed and the results are published along with transparent technical information about confidence intervals. Surveys also need to be careful in harmonizing demographic and social characteristics, so that standardized procedures are implemented across diverse societies. Moreover data should be freely disseminated in user-friendly format without cost as a public resource for the international community, with transparent technical details about sampling methods and questionnaire design, so that national statistical offices, local experts, NGOs, and scholars can access, scrutinize and analyze the data to reflect local priorities. By expanding the use of social survey resources in developing countries, this also strengthens local market research and statistical capacities, as well as potentially providing a voice for ordinary people in shaping development priorities.



How could this data be used? Table 1 illustrates the potential for generating a Development Dashboard and applying the results from selected items contained in the 6th wave of the World Values Survey (WVS-6) as benchmarks to monitor progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. WVS-6 covers sixty societies and the case of Ghana was chosen to illustrate some of the results. Thus, for example, the first SDG is to end poverty. To monitor this, the WVS asks: “In the last 12 months, how often have you or your family…Gone without a cash income?” One in ten Ghanaians reported going without a cash income in 2012, but the number rose to one fifth of the older population and one quarter of the lowest income households. Similarly, to monitor food security, the WVS asks: “How often have you or your family gone without enough food to eat in the last 12 months?” While one fifth of people living in Ghana reported going without food, the proportion rose to 30% among the older population and 43 percent of lowest income households. Similar social disparities can be observed across the range of indicators. Moreover concern about subjective security risks were far higher than the reported experiential risks in Ghana, for example there are widespread worries about losing a job or not being able to give children a good quality education. The Development Dashboard gives all actors – bilateral donors, local policymakers, civil society monitoring organizations, and ordinary citizens – the capacity to see transparently how far developmental goals and targets are being met – and where we are falling short of our aspirations.

Thus post-Rio, the world is facing multiple challenges in meeting developmental goals. One of the lessons from the MDGs is that setting specific goals and concrete targets can be a useful stimulus to focus attention on several critical problems facing the world’s poorest societies, encouraging the delivery of results and thereby holding governments to account for their investment of development aid. But the results-based approach is data intensive. Better monitoring requires taking advantage of the leaps in data availability, which have become widely available through the information revolution in recent decades, including drawing upon social surveys as one important source of evidence in the international community’s toolkit.


[i] United Nations. The Millennium Development Goals Report 2014. NY: UN. Updated indicators, here

[ii] See Jeffrey Sachs. 2005. The End of Poverty New York: Penguin. 

[iii] William Easterly. 2001. The Elusive Quest for Growth. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. William Easterly. 2006. The White Man’s Burden. NY: Penguin; Dambisa Moyo. 2010. Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa. NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. For current debates on the topic in the international community, see OECD DAC

[iv] The Economist. 29 March 2015. ‘Proposed sustainable Development Goals.’  

[v] United Nations Inter Agency and Expert Group (IEGA). 2013. ‘Lessons Learned from MDG Monitoring From A Statistical Perspective.’ 

[vi] United Nations Inter Agency and Expert Group (IEGA). 2014. A World That Counts (http://www.undatarevolution.org/report

Monday, 20 April 2015

EIP @ the 2015 ECPR Joint Sessions in Warsaw

During the last week of March and the first week of April, the European Consortium of Political Research (ECPR) held its annual Joint Sessions at the University of Warsaw in Poland. On its website, ECPR rightfully describes these events as meetings as “one of the major highlights of the world's political science calendar”. This year's Joint Sessions featured 25 workshops, each closed gatherings of 15-20 participants. 

For a week, a political and social scientists met to discuss a series of papers. The Electoral Integrity Project (EIP) had the opportunity to participate in the workshop “What Citizens want from democracy: popular attitudes to existing political processes and their alternatives”, organized by Ben Seyd (University of Kent) and Asa von Schoultz (Abo Akademi). The organizers assembled eighteen high quality papers around four themes: citizens’ expectations from democracy; attitudes towards different models of democracy; the effects of democratic expectations and participation; and how citizens understand the existing political rules. The Electoral Integrity Project (EIP) was represented by Dr. Ferran Martínez i Coma, who presented one of EIP's more recent works in progress: “What citizens want from elections: explaining the ‘election deficit’”, co-authored by Pippa Norris and Ferran Martínez i Coma. The paper builds on the ‘democratic deficit’ argument to focus on understanding European expectations and evaluations of elections, as the core institutions linking citizens and the state.

Participating in this workshop was a very valuable experience, as it is not every day we have the opportunity to receive feedback from peers working in the same area of research. Each paper was discussed for about an hour. Since the attendees came prepared and had read the materials, the quality and the depth of the feedback was outstanding. The paper was discussed by Marc Hooghe (University of Leuven). His comments, as well as those from other participants, will certainly improve the next iteration of the paper. Plus, this ECPR session in Warsaw offered the perfect environment to forge new connections and expand networks of likeminded thinkers. 

After the Joint Sessions, EIP presented its work at the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Another fruitful meeting. 

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Asian Electoral Stakeholder forum discusses electoral integrity in Asia and beyond

The second Asian Electoral Stakeholder Forum, 18-19 March 2015, Dili, Timor-Leste

With recent elections in Asia having drawn some unfavorable media attention (see for instance reporting on Thailand, Afghanistan, or Bangladesh), the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL), and the Comissão Nacional de Eleições (CNE) of Timor-Leste hosted the Second Asian Electoral Stakeholder Forum on 18-19 March 2015 in Dili, Timor-Leste. The forum brought together an eclectic group of electoral management bodies and civil society organizations from throughout the region, as well as participants from international assistance providers such as the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), The Asia Foundation, and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

Esteemed leaders of Timor-Leste’s young democracy joined the forum, with the nation’s President José Maria Vasconcelos, Nobel Laureate Dr. Jose Ramos-Jorta, Founder of the State Dr. Marí Bim Hamude Alkatir, and the country’s first president and Founder of the State Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão each sharing their observations about the challenges of nation building, democratic institutions, and development.

One of the primary aims of the forum was the discussion and development of the ‘Dili Indicators for Democratic Elections’. Drawing on the 2012 Bangkok Declaration for Free and Fair Elections and broader international standards such as the UDHR and ICCPR, these indicators are part of the move towards enshrining norms of electoral integrity in regionally negotiated frameworks. The Dili Indicators recognize the importance of the whole electoral cycle, from a sound legal framework, a level playing field in terms of boundary delimitation, campaign finance, and media coverage, to professional electoral management, and inclusive and meaningful participation of citizens. Content-wise, the indicators are closely aligned with cross-regional instances of norm entrepreneurship, such as the Venice Commission, or the Declaration of Global Principles for Nonpartisan Election Observation and Monitoring by Citizen Organizations

While state-driven regional networks such as the Association of Asian Election Authorities might arguably extend a stronger claim of legitimacy for their norm entrepreneurship, both the Bangkok Declaration and the Dili Indicators are pushing norms in an innovative way through the joint deliberation and endorsement by electoral management bodies and civil society groups. The forum also deliberated whether regional norms should provide space for local practices such as the Noken voting system in parts of Papua – a topic controversially discussed elsewhere (see here, and here) – or whether norms of electoral integrity should be universal. Different views persisted, highlighting the ongoing debate around the normative framework of electoral integrity.


Rohana Hettiarachchi, Executive Director of PAFFREL, addresses the panel, with representatives of the election commissions of (L-R) Cape Verde, Angola, and São Tomé and Príncipe listening closely.

Several members of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP) attended the stakeholder forum upon invitation by the Timorese election commission. Speakers from Portugal, Angola, and Mozambique highlighted diverse challenges in their respective countries. Attending CPLP participants also moved forward with the Dili Declaration, initiated by the Timorese commission. The signatories - the EMBs of Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, São Tome & Principe, and Timor-Leste - committed to principles of universal, equal, free and direct suffrage. They agreed to establish a working group on best practices and dialogue with stakeholders, and to build a database for election data sharing in lusophone countries.

Nobel Laureate Dr. Jose Ramos-Jorta lauded Timor-Leste's electoral assistance to Guinea-Bissau as a positive example of South-South cooperation. The Timorese commission had helped the West African country with the logistics of voter registration and other issues of electoral administration in its May 2014 election.


As representative of the EIP I discussed the findings of our annual report ‘The Year in Elections, 2014’. While pointing out problems of electoral integrity in a range of Asian countries, in particular Southeast Asia, positive developments were also highlighted in the panel discussion, such as the peaceful turnover or the Presidency in Sri Lanka, or high levels of electoral integrity in other third wave democracies such as Mongolia.

The joining panelists discussed challenges of electoral integrity in their respective countries. The U Aung Myint, election commissioner from Myanmar recounted his country's preparation for the election in late October/early November 2015. Holding the first broadly competitive election since 1990 in a climate of rapid socio-economic change, remaining areas of armed conflict, and anti-Muslim violence present a challenge for the Union Election Commission.. The upcoming polls will serve as a test for the country’s fledgling electoral institutions. 

Commissioner Fawzy vividly stressed the challenges of holding elections in a situation of ongoing insurgency in Afghanistan. The country scored among the five 'worst' elections of 2014 in the PEI Index, partly due to stark allegations of electoral fraud and the following complete audit. Electoral security was highlighted as the country’s main concern – a topic on which the Independent Election Commission had previously engaged with the Electoral Integrity Project and UNDP during the Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE) workshop in September 2014. 

Pakit Prommayon, Deputy Director-General for Electoral R&D of the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT), highlighted his institutions struggles of dealing with violent anti-election protests in the run-up to the February 2014 election. He made reference to the EIP annual report which had drawn some media attention in Thailand due to its low ranking of the country's electoral authorities and their handling of the results announcement. Khun Pakit stressed that Thailand's overall score in the PEI Index locates the country in the midddle range of countries - well above several other Southeast Asian neighbors. The ECT had previously refuted the results of the survey. 

L-R: Bidhayak Das (ANFREL), Hon. U Aung Myint (Union Election Commission of Myanmar), Com. Kwaja Aminullah Fawzy (IEC Afghanistan), Pakit Prommayon (Election Commission of Thailand), Com. Dasho Kunzang Wangdi (Election Commission of Bhutan), Adilur Rahman Khan (ODHIKAR), Max Grömping (Electoral Integrity Project)

Commissioner Dasho Kunzang Wangdi of Bhutan presented electoral activities undertaken in the mountainous South Asian country. Although the youngest EMB in the region, the Bhutanese commission conducts a host of voter education and mobilization activities, and foreign observers have often lauded the country for its peaceful transition to an electoral regime. Bhutan scored 68 out of 100 in the PEI Index, placing the country at the top of South Asia in terms of electoral integrity.

The challenges of electoral integrity in Bangladesh were recounted by leading civil society figure Adilur Rahman Khan, chairperson of the human rights organizations ODHIKAR. Khan - himself previously incarcerated for his work as a human rights defender – remarked in a somber tone on the fact that 153 out of 300 seats were won uncontested by the ruling party in his country’s latest election. He argued in favor of a caretaker government, able to see through the next national election in order to prevent a repetition of widespread violence and fraud in the next polls. 


In sum, ANFREL and the CNE did a tremendous job bringing together such a diverse group of participants. In particular, the effort of bridging the gap between EMBs and civil society is very worthwhile, as other observers noted as well. The ongoing debate on regional standards, best practices and lessons learned will hopefully draw in the participation of more state bodies in future iterations of the Forum. Several intriguing opportunities for deeper engagement resulted from this meeting for the Electoral Integrity Project. These will be reported in due time on this very blogspot.

Max Grömping

Sydney, 20 April 2015

Max Grömping is a researcher for the Electoral Integrity Project at the University of Sydney. His current research focuses on the impact of social media and domestic observers on electoral integrity. Prior to this, he lectured at Thammasat University, Thailand. 

Contact: max.groemping[at]sydney.edu.au

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Do regulations strengthen the integrity of campaign finance?

by Marcus Spittler

Everybody is familiar with some major funding scandals in the headlines, as exemplified by Watergate, the impeachment of Brazil’s President Collor de Melo following accusations of corruption, or the UK Ecclestone affair. Concern has sparked initiatives like Money, Politics and Transparency project designed to encourage the public to “follow the money”.

Concern is well justified. The Perceptions of Electoral Integrity (PEI) index, a worldwide expert survey, has shown that campaign financing is regarded as the most problematic stage in the electoral cycle. This remains true for both long established democracies like America, as well as full-fledged autocracies like Belarus.

To mitigate problems arising with campaign financing, countries have implemented various policies, including disclosure and transparency requirements, contribution caps, spending limits, and public funding. The general expectation is that these regulations make elections fairer for parties and candidates without well-to-do donors. 

But in a comparative perspective, do regulations on campaign finance really bolster the integrity of elections?

New evidence suggests that they do -- under certain circumstances. In PEI experts were asked to assess the quality of all stages within the electoral cycle, including campaign finance, such as any problems arising from the misuse of state resources, the equitable access to public money. and the transparency of campaign finance. 

International IDEA, another intergovernmental organization providing electoral assistance, collects evidence about the regulation of campaign finance in countries worldwide. This includes: Monetary limits on donations and spending, bans of certain donor groups and reporting obligations of both candidates and parties. Besides the influence of public subsidies, IDEA thus covers all aspects of campaign financing. Theoretically all these regulations can be expected to have a positive influence on the fairness of campaign spending. To develop a measure of campaign finance regulations, the number of existing regulations per country can be summed.[1] The assumption behind this measurement is, as more the campaign financing process is regulated and constrained by law, as higher the chance for a fair electoral environment.

Source: Electoral Integrity Project 2015. The expert survey of Perceptions of Electoral Integrity, Release 3 (PEI-3) and IDEA.

The results are quite surprising and some of them are shown in the graph. More regulations have an influence on the electoral fairness. But while the effect is rather low in autocracies and democracies, regulations can have a strong impact on Hybrid Regimes, coded by Freedom House as “partly-free”, which provide certain liberties and competitive elections, but malfunction in other regards. Kuwait, Turkey, and the Ukraine are in this group.

The graph above shows the link between campaign regulations and financial integrity in these countries. The PEI Campaign Finance Index is drawn on the horizontal x-axis. The vertical y-axis indicates the amount of regulations, while the rising blue line shows us the effect of regulations on financial integrity. The points in the chart show the actual position of a country. For instance, the state of Moldova, deeply involved in border issues in its east and far from being a democracy, is perceived to have very fair campaign financing, while it strongly regulates campaign financing. The opposite is true for Malawi. Here regulations are low, as well as fairness in campaign financing.

What are the lessons? Regulations can make a difference -- especially in hybrid regimes. In autocracies they are less effective, because the regimes tend to abuse campaign finance regulations as a tool to suppress opposition parties. In democracies, laws seem to be insufficient to strengthen campaign finance integrity. Effective regulations are accompanied by other factors, including an electoral monitoring body which is capable of enforcing the laws, and a political culture where access to public money is distributed on an egalitarian basis and corruption is restricted.

[1] Since there is no assumption whether spending limits are more or less important than reporting commitments, the aggregates are not weighted.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

A gender gap in leadership performance?

Pippa Norris
(Harvard and Sydney Universities)

One of the most striking images of the first televised UK general election leadership debate on Thursday 2nd April 2015 was the comparison of the seven party leaders on the platform including three women: Nicola Sturgeon (SNP), Natalie Bennett (Green), and  Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru).

The flash opinion polls immediately after the debate asking the public who won were divided, with YouGov putting Nicola Sturgeon first, while the Guardian/ICM Unlimited survey reported that Miliband and Cameron were neck-and-neck.

One question arising is whether the sex of the leaders had any impact on how women and men evaluated the leaders’ performance?

Do women voters lean in towards women leaders?

Graph 1 shows the breakdown from the Guardian/ ICM Unlimited poll of whether the leaders were seen by women and men to have performed either ‘very well’ or ‘quite well’.  The gender gap can be calculated as the difference in women and men’s performance evaluations.

Graph 1: Leaders performed 'well' or 'very well' by sex

Ref: The Guardian/ICM Unlimited Flash Poll 30 Mar-2 Apr 2015 N. 1,372

Thus compared with women, men favored the performance of two male leaders: Nigel Farange (by a substantial 9 points) and Nick Clegg (by 4 points). Greater support among men for UKIP was consistent with broader gender gaps in support for radical right-wing parties found throughout previous British and European research.

By contrast, women favored the performance of the three women leaders: Wood (by a substantial 11 points, the largest gender gap recorded in the survey), Bennett (by 9 points) and Sturgeon (by 5 points).

For the two major leaders – Ed Miliband and David Cameron – there was no significant gender gap in judgments about their performance.

Gender gaps in voting intentions?

But of course any gender gap could be produced by underlying patterns of party support rather than by the sex of the leaders per se, for example if women generally preferred the nationalist parties or those on the left of British politics.  A gender gap where women voters are more leftwing has been reported in many OECD countries in recent years, reflecting the pattern common in the United States since the early-1980s. To check this pattern, Graph 2 compares voting intentions for men and women in the same survey.

Graph 2: Voting intentions by Sex

Ref: The Guardian/ICM Unlimited Flash Poll 30 Mar-2 Apr 2015 N. 1,372

The results confirm that men are indeed more likely to express voting support for UKIP – producing a 5 point gender gap. But the gap was greater by UKIP leadership performance rather than voting intention.

By contrast, there is no significant gender gap reported for Plaid Cymru or the Scottish National Party, and only a small (2 point) gender gap where women are more inclined towards voting Green. The largest gender gap in voting intentions (4-points) is women’s greater support for the Labour party, while no significant gender gap can be observed in judgments of Miliband’s performance.

Gender matters in leadership evaluations

Thus the comparison based on the Guardian/ICM Unlimited flash poll suggest that the gender gap in evaluations of leadership performance during the British election debate were influenced by the sex of the leaders; this gap was not simply the result of prior party preferences.

The performance of the women party leaders (Bennett, Wood and Sturgeon) connected more favorably with women voters,  and this was not simply the product of existing gender gaps in party support.  By contrast,  men greatly favored the performance of Farange, and the gender gap here was larger than in voting support for UKIP.

In short, in British politics today, the survey evidence indicates that sex matters for political leadership.  It probably does so by providing a cognitive short-cut – especially for judging less well-known leaders for minor parties where people are relatively unfamiliar with their background, experience or policies.

One possible implication for British politics is that if Labour had selected a woman party leader instead of Ed Miliband, they could possibly have capitalized and potentially expanded their modest 4-point lead among women voters. Since there are more women than men voters in the electorate, this could have made all the difference for party fortunes in the close contest. There may be some lessons here for future leadership choices in Britain. Whether there are similar implications for other countries, including the potential capacity of Hilary Clinton to reinforce women’s support for the Democratic party, remains to be determined.

Pippa Norris is Professor of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney, the Maguire Lecturer in Comparative Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and Director of the Electoral Integrity Project.