The policy-seeking voter: evaluations of government performance beyond the economy

Niels Markwat
2020 SN Social Sciences  
AbstractVoters hold governments to account through elections, but which criteria are most important to voter evaluations of incumbent performance? While (economic) outcomes have long been central to studies of retrospective voting, recent studies have considered the influence of policy output—the policies implemented by incumbents to achieve their goals. Building on this promising development, this study identifies three ways in which policy output is expected to affect voter evaluations of
more » ... evaluations of incumbent performance—the congruence between implemented policy and (1) individual preferences; (2) public opinion; and (3) election pledges. A discrete choice experiment was designed to assess the relative importance of these three aspects of policy output in comparison to each other; as well as to two important economic indicators. Overall, the findings support the notion that policy output matters to voters even beyond outcomes. The findings also show that voters value congruence between policy and their personal preferences considerably more than policy congruence with public opinion; and election pledge fulfillment. This indicates that voters are egotropic in their evaluation of implemented policy, and more policy-seeking than accounted for in much of the empirical retrospective voting literature. These results inform our understanding of how policy output matters to voters, as well as of how voters hold governments accountable for their performance.
doi:10.1007/s43545-020-00030-4 fatcat:j4i7ly65dnhclcsgwafj6u5jam