Do voters vote for government coalitions? Testing downs' pessimistic conclusion


Journal Article

In many countries, elections produce coalition governments. Downs points out that in such cases the rational voter needs to determine what coalitions are possible, i.e. to ascertain their probability and to anticipate the policy compromises that they entail. Downs adds that this may be too complex a task and concludes that 'most voters do not vote as though elections were government-selection mechanisms' (Downs, 1957: 300). We test Downs' 'pessimistic' conclusion in the case of the 2003 Israeli election, an election that was bound to produce a coalition government and in which the issue of what the possible coalitions were was at the forefront of the campaign. We show that voters' views about the coalitions that could be formed after the election had an independent effect on vote choice, over and above their views about the parties, the leaders and their ideological orientations. We estimate that for one voter out of ten, coalition preferences were a decisive consideration, that is, they induced the voter to support a party other than the most preferred one. For many others, they were a factor, though perhaps not the dominant one. Furthermore, the least informed were as prone to vote on the basis of coalition preferences as the most informed. Our evidence disconfirms Downs' pessimistic view that voters will decide not to care about the formation of government. When they are provided with sufficient information about the possible options, voters think ahead about the coalitions that may be formed after the election. Copyright © 2006 SAGE Publications.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Blais, A; Aldrich, JH; Indridason, IH; Levine, R

Published Date

  • November 1, 2006

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 12 / 6

Start / End Page

  • 691 - 705

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1460-3683

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1354-0688

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1177/1354068806068594

Citation Source

  • Scopus