Theres Matthieß
No tolerance for parties breaking their promises? What citizens (do not) want from their parties

11th Annual Meeting of the European Political Science Association, (virtual conference), June 24th to June 25th, 2021

How much and when do citizens tolerate parties that break their pledges? The ideal of promissory representation and the responsible party model expect parties to formulate pledges before an election and to keep them when they become part of the government. Empirically, however, government parties sometimes fail to live up to this normative ideal, as a growing body of comparative research on pledge fulfilment has shown. Pledge breakage is not only a consequence of unwillingness and ignorance of parties, but also of compromising with others, such as coalition partners. This paper provides the first analysis of voters’ expectations based on a representative online survey conducted in Germany with more than 10,000 respondents. It shows that while many voters understand that there might be situations in which government parties cannot or should fulfil their pledges, there is low tolerance that government parties deviate from pledges for the sake of coalition compromise. In addition, populist attitudes and support of a permanent opposition decrease citizens’ tolerance, while ideological orientations are not important in explaining individual differences. These findings have major implications for our understanding of political representation and democratic legitimacy.