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Comparative National Elections Project

Richard Gunther
Richard Gunther

Democratization has been a consistent theme of activities at the Mershon Center, through both events or research. The showcase project in this initiative, long supported by the center, is the Comparative National Elections Project, one of the largest and longest-running projects of its kind in the world.

The Comparative National Elections Project (CNEP) is a partnership among scholars who have conducted election surveys on five continents. Founded in the late 1980s, CNEP now includes 70 surveys from 1990 to 2023 in 29 different countries and Hong Kong.  When data from CNEP election surveys in Greece and Colombia have been harmonized, they will be added to the surveys included the website.

The geographical scope and theoretical concerns of the CNEP have substantially evolved over the past three decades.  New questions reflecting this evolution are combined with essential items from earlier research foci retained in the common core questionnaire and merged dataset, creating time series that for some countries stretch back over more than three decades.  With roots that can be traced back to the very founding of modern electoral studies (by Paul Lazarsfeld et al.), its original research concerns focused on political intermediation processes (through personal discussion networks, the mass media, voluntary associations, and contacts with political parties) in four established democracies.

Addition to the project of several “Third Wave” democracies in CNEP II (1993-2003) were accompanied by an expansion beyond the core information-intermediation paradigm to explore in detail key aspects of democratic consolidation processes and attitudes relevant to democratic participation.  CNEP II further adapted the initial questionnaire to suit the research concerns associated with the study of new democracies by adding items measuring socio-political value orientations and other social cleavages that have commonly served as objects of political conflict and vehicles for electoral mobilization in many political systems.  These value items cover indigenous campaign issues in a cross-nationally comparable way.

Incorporation into the project of African, East Asian and Latin American democracies in CNEP III (2004-2009) led to a further broadening of the scope of our surveys.  Among other things, it added to the core questionnaire items tapping into differing citizen understandings of the meaning of democracy and assessments of the quality of democratic elections.

With the addition to the project of a number of non-democratic, illiberal-democratic countries or tenuously democratic countries (e.g., China, Russia, Iran, Ukraine, Serbia, Turkey and Kenya) in CNEP IV (2009 to the present), the geographical scope and theoretical concerns of the project have expanded.  In addition to facilitating the further exploration of the themes listed above, they address new research questions involving democratic deconsolidation, the rise of populist parties, “fake news,” and the rapidly evolving impact of the internet.

At present, CNEP includes surveys in the following places (and elections):

Paul Beck
Paul Beck
  • Argentina (2007, 2023)
  • Brazil (2022)
  • Bulgaria (1996)
  • Chile (1993, 2000, 2017, 2021)
  • China, local elections (2008)
  • Colombia (2014, 2018, 2022)
  • Dominican Republic (2010)
  • France (2017)
  • Germany (1990, 2017, 2021)
  • Great Britain (1992, 2017)
  • Greece (1996, 2004, 2015, 2019)
  • Hong Kong (1998, 2015, 2019)
  • Hungary (1998, 2006)
  • Indonesia (1999, 2004, 2009, 2014, 2019)
  • Iran (2016)
  • Italy (1996, 2006, 2013, 2018)
  • Japan (1993)
  • Kenya (2013)
  • Mexico (2006, 2012, 2018)
  • Mozambique (2004)
  • Portugal (2005, 2015)
  • Russia (2016)
  • Serbia (2020)
  • South Africa (2004, 2009, 2014, 2019)
  • Spain (1993, 2004, 2011, 2015, 2023)
  • Taiwan (2004, 2016, 2020)
  • Turkey (2014)
  • Ukraine (2019)
  • United States (1992, 2004, 2012, 2016, 2020, 2022)
  • Uruguay (1994, 2004)

The Ohio State University is the host for the CNEP website, and the Mershon Center for International Security Studies has generously sponsored some of these surveys and research conferences focused on them. The CNEP website contains each of the original country surveys and questionnaires; two data sets that merge the common questions from the individual-country data sets; and various descriptions of the project and its partners.

The website also lists numerous publications that have resulted from the individual country studies and from cross-national analyses of their data. Two edited books have been produced by CNEP partners: Democracy, Intermediation, and Voting on Four Continents, edited by Richard Gunther, Hans-Jürgen Puhle and José Ramón Montero (Oxford, 2007); and Voting in Old and New Democracies, edited by Richard Gunther, Paul A. Beck, Pedro C. Magalhães and Alejandro Moreno (Routledge, 2016).

Richard Gunther and Paul Beck, both emeritus professors in the Department of Political Science and Mershon Center at Ohio State, are the co-directors of CNEP. Find out more on the project website at https://u.osu.edu/cnep