In the research project with Thomas Gschwend, Oke Bahnsen und Anna Adendorf, we study how colaition politics influences voters and parties.
Research question/goal: In multi-party systems, parties often announce their coalition preferences during the electoral campaign. Our project focused on two aspects. The first was to understand how pre-electoral coalition signals influence voting behaviour. The second was to investigate under which conditions parties are willing to send coalition signals during election campaigns.
To explore how coalition signals shape voting behaviour, we conducted four different survey experiments during the 2018 Swedish general election, the 2020 Irish general election, the 2020 New Zealand general election, and the 2021 German federal election. To test when parties signal their preferred coalitions, we set up a comprehensive cross-country database of electoral coalitions in 398 legislative elections in 22 advanced industrialized democratic countries from 1946 to 2014. Furthermore, we collected pre-electoral coalition signals from newspaper articles in 17 elections in five countries. Using this extensive data set, we worked together with computer scientists from the University of Mannheim to train a classifier that automatically detects coalition signals from newspaper articles.
Our results provide central insights into the influence of coalition signals on voting decisions. First, coalition signals affect voting decisions by changing voters’ expectations about which coalitions are likely to form after the election. Second, voters are risk-averse with respect to coalition-directed voting. Third, breaking coalition promises reduces the propensity of voters to vote for the inconsistent parties. Fourth, motivation, information, and capabilities are preconditions for strategic voting. With respect to parties’ pre-electoral coalition strategies, parties prefer to form pre-electoral coalitions with partners who are on the same side of the ideological spectrum.
Democratic accountability is characterized as weak in parliamentary systems where voters cannot choose their government directly. We argue that coalition signals about desirable and undesirable coalitions that might be formed after the election help to provide this essential aspect of democratic government. We propose a simple model that identifies the effect of coalition signals on individual vote decisions. Based on survey experiments in two different countries we show how coalition signals change the relative weight of voters’ party and coalition considerations. Coalition signals increase the importance of coalition considerations and, at the same time, decrease the importance of party considerations in voters’ decision calculus, leading some voters to change their vote intention.
When voters support parties in multi-party democracies, it is often uncertain what coalition government the party is likely to join. How do voters deal with this type of uncertainty? In this paper, we use a conceptual analogy between coalition-directed voting and participating in a lottery to develop a novel conceptualization of coalition-directed voting. We present observational and experimental results that support the idea that voters are risk averse when considering coalition government options. The perception of uncertain coalition prospects of a party negatively affects the propensity to vote for parties in survey data, even when holding the expected coalition government payoffs constant. In a survey vignette experiment during the German federal election 2021, we find that uncertain coalition prospects reduce the propensity to support a party, compared to certain coalition prospects with the same expected coalition government payoffs. The findings provide important insights for research on strategic voting theories and parties’ coalition strategies.
How do coalition signals shape voting behavior? Revealing the mediating role of coalition expectations
Existing empirical research suggests that there are two mechanisms through which pre-electoral coalition signals shape voting behavior. According to these, coalition signals both shift the perceived ideological positions of parties and prime coalition considerations at the cost of party considerations. The work at hand is the first to test another possibility of how coalition signals affect voting. This coalition expectation mechanism claims that coalition signals affect voting decisions by changing voters’ expectations about which coalitions are likely to form after the election. Moreover, this paper provides the first integrative overview of all three mechanisms that link coalition signals and individual voting behavior. Results from a survey experiment conducted during Sweden’s 2018 general election suggest that the coalition expectation mechanism can indeed be at work. By showing how parties’ pre-electoral coalition behavior enter a voter’s decision calculus, the paper provides important insights for the literature on strategic voting theories in proportional systems.
Das Thema Leihstimmen erhielt im Wahljahr 2013 besondere Aufmerksamkeit. Während Leihstimmen der FDP einen unerwartet hohen Stimmanteil bei der Landtagswahl in Niedersachsen bescherten, verfehlte die FDP bei der Landtagswahl in Bayern und auch bei der Bundestagswahl den Einzug ins Parlament. In der politischen Berichterstattung wurde das Ausscheiden der FDP zumeist auch darauf zurückgeführt, dass in diesen Wahlen keine Leihstimmen vergeben wurden. Diese Interpretation stellt individuenbasierte Theorien strategischen Wählens in Frage. Diesen zufolge sollten Unionsanhänger mit starken Präferenzen für eine schwarz-gelbe Koalition in allen drei Wahlen Anreize gehabt haben, die FDP mit ihrer Zweitstimme zu unterstützen, wenn sie deren Einzugschancen als unsicher bewerteten. In diesem Licht ist es auch keine ausgemachte Sache, dass es kein Leihstimmverhalten in Bayern und im Bund gab - lediglich dass es zu wenige gab, um den Einzug der FDP zu sichern. Dieser Beitrag überprüft anhand einer statistischen Auswertung von Wählerbefragungsdaten die Erklärungskraft des individuenbasierten Erklärungsansatzes. Lässt sich Leihstimmverhalten in allen drei Wahlen identifizieren? Wir finden empirische Evidenz für strategisches Leihstimmverhalten bei der Landtagswahl in Niedersachsen, aber nicht bei der Bayern- und undestagswahl. Unsere Ergebnisse deuten darauf hin, dass die Erklärungskraft des individuenbasierten Ansatzes kontextabhängig ist. Dies unterstreicht die Bedeutung von Faktoren auf der Parteien- und Wahlebene für die Erklärung strategischen Wahlhandelns.
Estimating coalition majorities during political campaigns based on pre-election polls
In multi-party systems, politicians, voters, and political pundits often speculate about potential coalition governments based on current poll results. Their interest particularly centers around the question whether a specific coalition has enough public support to form a parliamentary majority. In this research note, we present a Bayesian Dynamic Multinomial-Dirichlet model to estimate the probability that a coalition will find enough public support to form a parliamentary majority. An application to German federal elections from 1994–2017 and comparisons with alternative methods underscore the value of this approach.
Pre-electoral Coalition Strategies in Multiparty Systems
Government coalitions are a foreseeable and central feature of governance in multiparty systems. This fact often compels parties to make coalition politics part of their pre-election campaign effort, signaling their preferred coalition to the electorate. In this article, we derive theoretical expectations that take voters reaction to pre-electoral coalitions into account under what conditions pre-electoral coalitions form and which parties form such coalitions. The model reveals that the ideological configuration of the coalition matters: Parties favor joining pre-electoral coalitions with partners that are found on the same side of the ideological spectrum. Bringing together data about pre-electoral coalitions in 398 legislative elections from 22 advanced industrialized democratic countries from 1946 to 2014 permits us to support this hypothesis. The finding that parties are more likely to enter bloc pre-electoral coalitions has important implications for accountability and representation in proportional systems.
Come hither or go away? Recognising pre-electoral coalition signals in the news
In this paper, we introduce the task of political coalition signal prediction from text, that is, the task of recognizing from the news coverage leading up to an election the (un)willingness of political parties to form a government coalition. We decompose our problem into two related, but distinct tasks: (i) predicting whether a reported statement from a politician or a journalist refers to a potential coalition and (ii) predicting the polarity of the signal – namely, whether the speaker is in favour of or against the coalition. For this, we explore the benefits of multi-task learning and investigate which setup and task formulation is best suited for each sub-task. We evaluate our approach, based on hand-coded newspaper articles, covering elections in three countries (Ireland, Germany, Austria) and two languages (English, German). Our results show that the multi-task learning approach can further improve results over a strong monolingual transfer learning baseline.