Looking for Locals: Voter Information Demands and Personal Vote-Earning Attributes of Legislators under Proportional Representation


  • Matthew Søberg Shugart is a Professor of Political Science at the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, University of California, San Diego (mshugart@ucsd.edu). Melody Ellis Valdini is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science, University of California, San Diego (mellis@weber.ucsd.edu). Kati Suominen is a consultant in the Integration, Trade, and Hemispheric Issues Division, Inter-American Development Bank (KATIS@iadb.org).

The research for this article was supported by grants from the Academic Senate Committee on Research, University of California, San Diego, and the Center for the Study of Democracy, University of California, Irvine. Numerous colleagues were generous with their time in providing comments or assistance in locating data, including John Carey, Gary Cox, David Farrell, André Freire, Michael Gallagher, John Gerring, Bernie Grofman, Gordon Hanson, Mark Jones, Marek Kaminski, Cristina Leston-Bandeira, Mat McCubbins, Alberto Penadés, David Samuels, Rein Taagepera, and Jessica Wallack. We benefited from many hours of inadequately compensated research assistance from John Lobato, Ashleigh Leone, Claudia Loderbauer, Jorge García, Susana Moreira, and Mónica Pachón-Buitrago. The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the IADB.


Proportional representation systems affect the extent to which elected legislators exhibit various attributes that allow them to earn a personal vote. The sources of variation in personal vote-earning attributes (PVEA) lie in informational shortcuts voters use under different electoral rules. List type (closed or open) and district magnitude (the number of legislators elected from a district) affect the types of shortcuts voters employ. When lists are closed, legislators' PVEA are of decreasing usefulness to voters as magnitude (and hence the number of candidates on a list) increases. When lists are open, legislators' PVEA are increasingly useful to voters as magnitude increases, because the number of candidates from which voters must choose whom to give a preference vote increases. As predicted by the theory, the probability that a legislator will exhibit PVEA—operationalized as local birthplace or lower-level electoral experience—declines with magnitude when lists are closed, but rises with magnitude when lists are open.