Marc Debus, Jochen Müller
Do Voters’ Coalition Preferences Affect Government Formation?

West European Politics, 2013: 36, issue 5, pp. 1007-1028
ISSN: 0140-2382 (print); 1743-9655 (online)

Studies on coalition formation assume that political parties have two major goals: They aim to maximize office and policy payoffs. In this paper, we show that decision making in the government formation game is also determined by the voters’ coalition preferences. Since the coalition formation process is not a one shot game, parties have to take the coalition preferences of the electorate into account when they evaluate the utility of potential coalitions. If parties fail to comply with the coalition preferences of voters, they are likely to be penalized in future elections. We test our argument by analyzing government formation in the 16 German states between 1990 and 2009. The results support our argument: The formation of coalitions – at least in the German states – is not only determined by office- and policy-seeking behaviour of political parties, but also by the preferences of voters regarding their preferred outcome of the coalition game.