Or Tuttnauer, Simone Wegmann
Voting for Votes: Opposition Parties’ Legislative Activity and Electoral Outcomes

American Political Science Review, 2022: 116, Heft 4, S. 1357-1374
ISSN: 0003-0554 (print), 1537-5943 (online)

Scholars frequently expect parties to act strategically in parliament, hoping to affect their electoral fortunes. Voters assumingly assess parties by their activity and vote accordingly. However, the retrospective voting literature looks mostly at the government’s outcomes, leaving the opposition understudied. We argue that, for opposition parties, legislative voting constitutes an effective vote-seeking activity as a signaling tool of their attitude toward the government. We suggest that conflictual voting behavior affects voters through two mechanisms: as a signal of opposition valence and as means of ideological differentiation from the government. We present both aggregate- and individual-level analyses, leveraging a dataset of 169 party observations from 10 democracies and linking it to the CSES survey data of 27,371 respondents. The findings provide support for the existence of both mechanisms. Parliamentary conflict on legislative votes has a general positive effect on opposition parties’ electoral performance, conditional on systemic and party-specific factors.