Comparative National Elections Project

Comparative National Elections Project

Richard Gunther
Paul Beck
William "Chip" Eveland
Erik Nisbet

Principal Investigators:
Dick Gunther, Department of Political Science
Paul Beck, Departments of Political Science and Sociology, School of Communication
William “Chip” Eveland, School of Communication, Department of Political Science
Erik Nisbet, School of Communication, Department of Political Science

The Comparative National Elections Project (CNEP) is a multi-year, multi-country examination of citizen voting behavior and attitudes in democracies around the world. In addition to including the conventional factors in explaining voting decisions, it has pioneered a focus on the communication processes through which voters receive information about policies, parties, and candidates during election campaigns.

CNEP began in 1990 with surveys in the first national elections of the 1990s in Germany, Britain, the United States and Japan. It expanded in 1993 to include eight more countries and additional questions. CNEP recently expanded again so that it now includes more 31 countries on five continents. Most of these data have been incorporated into a single merged file in which several hundred core items have been standardized.

The first edited volume from the project was published by Oxford University Press in 2007. Last year, project leaders met at Humboldt University in Berlin to finalize chapters for the next edited volume, which adds new Asian, Latin American and African countries and a focus on the electoral impact of value cleavages. The book will be submitted to presses in early 2014.

Among its topics are:

  • the role of mass media, discussion networks, secondary associations, and political parties as the four principal channels of political communication in democracies
  • the impact of sociopolitical values on electoral behavior
  • a comparison of the understanding of and support for democracy across five continents
  • a systematic comparative analysis of varying forms of political participation and how they are affected by flows of political information
  • voting determinants, including long-term factors such as social cleavages, value conflicts and partisanship, and short-term factors such as the state of the economy and candidate attributes, as well as the role of intermediaries
  • determinants of voting turnout, including the impacts of individual characteristics, country electoral laws, and political communication
  • a detailed case study of attitude formation and political behavior across four decades in Spain, based on a panel study and in-depth interviews

Project leaders are also planning the fourth phase of CNEP, which will integrate new survey data from, Germany, Indonesia, South Africa, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Kenya, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Turkey and the United States.

New areas of analysis include:

  • a systematic comparison of the electoral process in established democracies, “defective” democracies, transitional regimes, and authoritarian systems
  • the political impact of linguistically, culturally and ethnically diverse populations in “plural societies”
  • the emergence of the internet and social media as sources of political information
  • the implications of new media for electoral strategies and political parties
  • values changes in both Western and non-Western countries

So far CNEP has produced more than 100 chapters and articles and one edited book. Individual country survey datasets are posted on the project website at


Richard Gunther, Professor Emeritus of Political Science
Paul Beck, Emeritus Professor and Academy Professor of Political Science