A Short History of Candidate Surveys
Candidate surveys are a sub-species of party elite surveys. Other than party conference delegate surveys or surveys among members of parliament, they almost “naturally” focus on the campaign activities of party elites. In the past, they have been most popular in plurality-based electoral systems where vote choices are assumed to be more prominently connected than elsewhere with the activities and traits of local party candidates.
It is obvious, therefore, that candidate surveys have been a valued part of national election studies in electoral systems following the Westminster-model, notably in the UK, but also in Australia and in New Zealand. But candidate surveys have a history also in other – proportionality-based – electoral systems polities, most notably in that of the European Union, in the Netherlands, and in Germany.
Partly as a result of recent changes in the functioning of political parties as intermediaries between citizens and the state, individual candidates – their activities, attitudes and beliefs – have become a most attractive and promising research object. This is where the CCS gets into the picture. The CCS aims at surveying parliamentary candidates at first-order national legislative elections in as many different contexts as possible, and to relate variations in individual attitudes and behaviours to varying properties of constituencies and political regimes.
The Purpose of the CCS
The CCS aims at surveying parliamentary candidates in some 30 countries that vary systematically in view of their regime type (presidential vs. parliamentary), the electoral system applied (candidate- vs. party-centered) and the degree of consolidation of the democratic order. The purpose of these surveys, and of the subsequent comparative analysis of their findings, is twofold:
1. To add empirical data to the study of party decline, ideological depolarization, and political representation. This will be possible on the basis of question on recruitment, campaigning, issue orientations, and evaluations of the democratic process that are included in the common micro-questionnaire of the study. Personal background and career data are also secured which, for many, will be worth studying in their own right.
2. To identify the political-structural correlates of individual attitudes and behaviors of party elites in order to add ‘political’ explanations to the ubiquitous ‘sociological’ (modernization-based) explanation of variations over time and across countries.
This project is meant to mark a new start in the comparative empirical study of political parties’ contribution to present-day democracy. Perhaps the most perplexing aspect of it is the fact that it does not require excessive funds to be realized in any of the many different places in which it is planned to be carried through.
The CCS not a stand-alone project. It borrows many ideas and the necessary research infra-structure of conducting and putting together a large number of individual survey studies from successful comparative research enterprises like the CSES and the EES. These studies have set examples of how to organize cross-national co-operative research, and their experiences will guide the CCS along its way.