Carolina Plescia, Alejandro Ecker, Thomas M. Meyer
Do party supporters accept policy compromises in coalition governments?

European Journal of Political Research, 2022: 61, issue 1, pp. 214-229
ISSN: 0304-4130 (print), 1475-6765 (online)

Government formation in multi-party systems often requires coalition negotiations and finding common ground among coalition partners. Supporters of parties involved in the government formation process face a trade-off when evaluating such bargaining processes: on the one hand, voters usually prefer seeing their party being in government rather than in opposition; on the other hand, negotiations require coalition compromises that they might dislike. In this paper, we study voters’ willingness to accept policy compromises during government formation processes. We argue that voters’ acceptance of policy compromises depends on both the strength of their party attachment and the importance they assign to the issue at stake during the coalition negotiations. Not giving in on important issues is key, especially for supporters of challenger parties, who hold strong policy preferences on a selected number of issues. To test these expectations, we collected original survey data immediately after the Spanish general election in November 2019. The results show support for the hypothesized effects, shed light on the pressure potential coalition partners face during government formation and help explain the failures of government formation attempts in increasingly polarized societies.