Attributing Policy Influence under Coalition Governance

Attributing Policy Influence under Coalition Governance

By David Fortunato, University of California, San Diego, Nick C. N. Lin, Academia Sinica, Randolph T. Stevenson, Rice University and Mathias Wessel Tromborg, Aarhus University

Coalition governance divides policy-making influence across multiple parties, making it challenging for voters to accurately attribute responsibility for outcomes. We argue that many voters overcome this challenge by inferring parties’ policy-making influence using a simple heuristic model that integrates a number of readily available and cheaply obtained informational cues about parties (e.g., their roles in government and legislative seat shares)—while ignoring other cues that, while predictive of real-world influence, are not suitable for heuristic inference (e.g., median party status and bargaining power). Using original data from seven surveys in five countries, we show that voters’ attributions of parties’ policy-making influence are consistent with our proposed inferential strategy. Our findings suggest that while voters certainly have blind spots that cause them to misattribute policy responsibility in some situations, their attributions are generally sensible and consistent with the academic research on multiparty policy making.

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