Lea Gärtner, Konstantin Gavras, Harald Schoen
What tips the scales? Disentangling the mechanisms underlying post-electoral gains and losses in democratic support

Electoral Studies, 2020: 67, issue October, (article: 102210)
ISSN: 0261-3794 (print + online)

Prior research has shown that winning or losing elections matters. To account for this pattern, it is argued that winners can expect their preferred policies to be implemented and experience the psychological gratification of winning, whereas losers have to accept disliked policies in addition to the psychological distress of losing. In an attempt to better understand the mechanisms underlying the dynamics of winners’ and losers’ democratic support after elections, this study aims to separate the influence of policy performance and psychological gratification. Using panel data from the 2017 German federal election, we show that policy congruence with the government increases voters’ democratic support whether they voted for the government or not, suggesting that policy congruence is more important than winning the government in securing losers’ democratic support. We find no independent effect of psychological gratification; however, the evidence suggests that winning the government affected voters’ democratic support independent of the two tested mechanisms.