Political Representation, Parties and Presidents Survey (PREPPS)

2017 - 2019
GIGA | IE University | University of Connecticut

Nina Wiesehomeier, head of project, IE University, Spain

Dr. Matthew Singer, team member of project, University of Connecticut, United States



Research Questions

How do political parties and presidents in Latin America position themselves on different policy issues? Which political actors support mechanisms of direct democracy, which don’t? Does the degree of populist rhetoric used by political actors correlate systematically with their policy platforms, their organizational style, and their support for different modes of representation?

Contribution to International Research

Among other research endeavors within this project, I plan to investigate the relation between political actors’ degree of populism and their support for direct democratic mechanisms in collaboration with Nina Wiesehomeier (IE University) and Yanina Welp (University of Zurich). The success of populist actors is often interpreted as a direct response to a larger crisis of representative democracy, particularly to the perceived delegitimatization of representative institutions. Due to the dualistic nature of populist discourse – centering on the “pure” people versus a “corrupt” elite that is removed from the people – populism appears to have a quasi-natural affinity to mechanisms of direct democracy. Calls for increased direct citizen control and engagement in political decision making processes, in other words an increase in participation, are not confined to populist actors, however. Yet, populists and non-populists may differ regarding the particular types of mechanisms of direct democracy they favor. Using the expert survey data of the Political Representation, Parties, and Presidents Survey (PREPPS), we map the preferences of 156 political parties and 18 presidents in 18 Latin American countries for tools that enable citizens to decide on issues put before them by the political elite versus those that empower citizens to shape the agenda themselves, such as the recall of a mandate or the call for referendums via signature collection. We contrast these preferences not only with the degree of populism these actors espouse, but also with their reliance on charismatic leadership as a means of voter-linkage vis-à-vis policy driven linkages.

Research Design and Methods

PREPPS expands and combines previous efforts of measuring policy positioning (Wiesehomeier and Benoit, 2009) and democratic linkage mechanisms (Kitschelt 2013) in Latin American presidential systems using expert surveys. Questions on policy positions include the general left-right dimension, the economic left-right, social policies, redistribution, foreign policy, and environmental policy, among others. Furthermore the project collects information on conditional exchange, party organization, and factions. The data resulting from PREPPS will allow for a comprehensive comparative assessment of policy dimensions for a large number of parties and presidents across 18 Latin American countries in conjunction with mechanisms of accountability and modes of competition.

We are planning on implementing this new survey instrument during Summer 2018 and make the data available for public use as soon as possible.

Preliminary Results

We are planning on implementing this new survey instrument during Summer 2018 and make the data available for public use as soon as possible.