Abstract: Using a cross-national perspective covering all free and partly free countries, this thesis addresses two questions: What factors are associated with levels of gender representation, ethnic group representation, and ideological representation? And what are the relationships between levels of gender, ethnic group, and ideological representation? Ideological representation regards policy positions in different issue domains, whilst gender and ethnic group representation are concerned with the inclusion of women and ethnic groups in parliament. The representation of ethnic groups is approached in a multivariate cross-national analysis for the first time.
Cultural rather than institutional factors seem to be the best predictors for the different levels of gender representation and ethnic group representation. Cultural attitudes are measured with survey questions on attitudes to women as political leaders, and tolerance of marginalized groups in society. The thesis finds that on average quotas for women and ethnic groups are not associated with higher levels of representation, perhaps because of issues regarding how quotas are implemented. Broadly speaking, little effect of the electoral system on any form of representation could be observed.
Looking at levels of ideological representation, in line with some recent studies, the thesis suggests that the electoral system is not associated with different levels of ideological representation. I show that this is the case across various policy domains. Furthermore, the thesis finds no evidence for a direct relationship between levels of gender representation and levels of ethnic group representation, but levels of gender representation may be associated with levels of left–right representation. The relationship between different forms of representation might be shaped by the salience of ideological domains and awareness of under-representation of ethnic minority groups. Overall, the thesis argues that cultural attitudes are central to understanding levels of political representation, a factor often neglected in the literature.