Thursday, 10 March 2016

People under Proportional Representation 11% happier than those under First Past the Post systems

Having recently come across the fact that Denmark had (although now it would appear to be Switzerland!) the highest happiness rating in the world and that it uses a proportional representation - and it certainly seems like having your voice heard could somehow correspond to happiness - I decided to investigate whether there was a link between proportional representation systems and happiness. To do this, I gathered data from the 2015 world happiness report, which countries use the List PR system (from IDEA, 10/03/2016) and which countries use FPTP (from IDEA, 10/03/2016).

Briefly, proportional representation is a system whereby the number of representatives selected for parliament is proportional to the amount of people who voted for that party. First past the post is a constituency based system whereby members of parliament are selected based on a vote taken in some geographical location; in this system a single MP runs for a particular area. If you live in the UK or USA then you are under first past the post.

Read more on FPTP vs PR

I made a reasonable attempt to make sure as much data as possible could be linked to either of these systems although a significant number of countries did not take part in the world happiness report and so were ignored. The means of the happiness scores were compared in this analysis.

Findings: PR had an 11.56% higher happiness rating than FPTP and 4.8% higher than all countries combined.

Happiness of different electoral systems (NOTE: Non-zeroed graph! Pay attention to scale - I can't figure out how to fix it and feel kind of sick anyway so...)
However, there is the caveat that the difference between the happiness given by the two systems does not exceed the standard deviation.

Countries with FPTP include the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and India
Countries with PR include Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Austria and Russia

Other notable countries include Germany who have their own system

So what does this say? It seems to suggest that countries with proportional representation systems are more likely to be happy. Certainly this is a correlation and not a causation - although a plausible cause is that people who feel they are adequately represented in government are more likely to be happy although there are likely to be many confounding factors including the country's history. It seems to be the case that Proportional Representation tends towards creating coalition governments who tend to have to come to consensus based policies rather than guided by ideology or party bias.

Download the data

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