Marc Debus, Jochen Müller
Expected utility or learned familiarity? The formation of voters' coalition preferences

Electoral Studies, 2014: 34, issue 1, pp. 54-67
ISSN: 0261-3794 (print und online)

In most modern parliamentary democracies, it is unlikely that single party governments will be formed, meaning that a voter’s preferred party presumably has to share cabinet offices and negotiate policy compromises in a coalition government. This raises the question of how voters evaluate potential (coalition) governments, especially since recent studies have shown that coalition preferences influence voting behaviour. In this paper, we combine theories of voting behaviour, government formation and political learning to derive expectations regarding the factors that may impact voters’ coalition preferences. We test our hypotheses by analysing survey data from the German federal and state levels. The results of a mixed logit regression analysis support our arguments: Voters’ coalition preferences not only depend on the perceived policy distance between the positions of voters and the most distant party within combinations of parties, but also on predominant patterns of government formation.