Online Research Seminar

Frontiers in the Study of Japanese Democracy

Date: December 11 (Sat)  Japan Standard Time

Please join our half-day virtual seminar featuring three cutting-edge research papers on Japanese democracy, hosted jointly by the East Asia Regional Center and Keio University’s Department of Political Science.

Registration:  (You will receive a URL link to the seminar upon registration.) 

Session 1:  9am – 10am

Hikaru Yamagishi (Yale University) 

Party Competition and Turnout in Japan’s Mixed-Member Majoritarian Electoral System

A central puzzle in contemporary Japanese politics is the electoral dominance of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) despite the electorate’s preference for opposition party policies (e.g. Horiuchi, Smith, and Yamamoto, 2018). Scholars have shown the LDP to have a ‘turnout advantage’ (e.g. Scheiner, Smith, and Thies, 2016), but the mechanism remains unclear. This paper argues that in Mixed-Member Majoritarian electoral systems, parties’ decisions to coordinate to compete in majoritarian district contests affect electors’ willingness to turn out to vote. In a survey experiment in Japan, I show varying scenarios of party competition to move individual expectations of parties’ viability to win a majority in the legislature. Individuals treated with information about higher levels of party coordination report higher levels of interest in turning out to vote than of those treated with low party coordination. The implication for Japan is that the fragmentation of opposition parties makes it harder for voters to believe that any one party can unseat the incumbent, resulting in a mobilizational disadvantage for the opposition.

Discussant:  Kenneth McElwain (University of Tokyo)

Session 2: 10:10am – 11:10am 

Charles McClean  (University of Michigan)  

Does the Underrepresentation of Young People in Political Institutions Matter for Social Spending?

Young people are underrepresented in most political institutions. While prior studies have investigated the causes behind the shortage of younger politicians in public office, there is a lack of research on the potential consequences for either substantive representation or policy outcomes. I theorize that the age of politicians affects how they allocate government spending on social welfare between age groups and over time. Using an original dataset of over 12,000 mayoral candidates in Japan (2006-2019) and a regression discontinuity design, I find that younger mayors increase their municipality’s spending on child welfare for younger families, especially through long-term investments in infrastructure, whereas older mayors expand short-term benefits for the elderly. These findings provide evidence for a link between the descriptive and substantive representation of different age groups and suggest that greater youth representation can affect the well-being of younger people.

Discussant:  Takeshi Hieda (Osaka City University) 

Session 3:   11:20am – 12:20am

Yoko Okuyama (Uppsala University, presenter) and Ayumi Sudo (Yale University) 

Electoral Institutions, Women’s Representation, and Policy Outcomes

Do electoral institutions affect the degree to which female legislators address women’s interests in legislative processes? While the growing literature has examined whether increased women’s representation causally affects policy outcomes, whether electoral institutions mediate the effect is less known. To fill the gap, this study tests whether proportional representation (PR) encourages female representatives to address women-specific interests more than a single-member district (SMD) does. To elicit the causal impact of electoral institutions, we leverage the unique“best loser” provision of the mixed electoral system in the Japanese House of Representatives elections, where a marginal candidate may win an SMD seat or PR seat by chance. To fully account for the complex structure of the mixed electoral system, we apply the simulation-based regression discontinuity design. Across different legislative activities, we consistently find a significant effect of holding a PR seat: female PR representatives more frequently affiliate with women-related committees, submit question memorandums on women’s issues, and endorse petitions regarding women’s interests than their male counterparts, but significantly less so when they stand as SMD representatives. The institutional effect likely arises because a female PR representative, who represents a larger district with other co-partisans, has greater incentives to prioritize women-related interests to distinguish herself from her co-partisans. Our results suggest that electoral institutions do affect the relationship between women’s nominal representation and their policy consequences. More broadly, our findings bring forward the research agenda in political economics to better understand the political institutions and policy choices and, in particular, underscore the importance of institutional environments in leveraging diverse voices in policymaking.

Discussant:  Kentaro Fukumoto (Gakushuin University)  

For inquiries, contact Yuko Kasuya (

This event is co-hosted by the V-Dem East Asia Center and Keio University’s Department of Political Science and is open to anyone interested in the topic, free of charge.