Hyde, Susan and Nikolay Marinov. 2012. “Which Elections Can Be Lost?”
The concept of electoral competition is relevant to a variety of research agendas in political science, yet the question of how to measure electoral competition has received little direct attention. We revisit the distinction proposed by Giovanni Sartori between competition as a structure or rule of the game and competitiveness as an outcome of that game, and argue that to understand which elections can be lost (and therefore when parties and leaders are potentially threatened by electoral accountability), scholars may be better off considering the full range of elections where competition is allowed. We provide a dataset of all national elections between 1945 and 2006 and a measure of whether each election event is structured such that competition is possible. We outline the pitfalls of other measures used by scholars to define the potential for electoral competition, and show that such methods can lead to biased or incomplete findings. The new global data on elections and the minimal conditions necessary for electoral competition are introduced, followed by an empirical illustration of the differences between the proposed measure of competition and existing methods used to infer the existence of competition.
Keyword: elections, competition, NELDA data