Shaun Bowler, Thomas Gschwend, Indridi H. Indridason
Coalition Policy Perceptions

The Journal of Politics, 2020: 82, issue 4, pp. 1458-1473
ISSN: 0022-3816 (print), 1468-2508 (online)

We examine how voters form expectations about the policy positions of coalition governments. The literature generally assumes that voters believe the influence of coalition parties on government policy is proportional to the coalition parties’ sizes. Yet little is known about whether, or how, voters form such expectations. In this article we leverage data from Austria, Germany, and Sweden and find that voters do not see coalition party influence as proportional. Voters take account of the coalition parties’ bargaining strength, perceiving smaller coalition parties to have disproportional influence on coalition policy. In other words, voters who live under and vote for coalition governments have a somewhat different sense of policy outcomes than the literature currently suggests.