Hjermitslev, Ida B. (forthcoming) “The electoral cost of coalition participation: Can anyone escape?” Party Politics

It is a well-established empirical finding that governments on average lose votes during their time in office. This exploratory analysis examines whether all members of coalition governments suffer the electoral cost of governing equally. Using electoral data from 20 parliamentary systems from 1961 to 2015, I compare the electoral performance of junior coalition members, the prime minister of a coalition, and single-party governments. Furthermore, I examine the conditioning effects of economic performance, legislative institutions as well as party ideology and size. I find that there are substantial differences in the electoral cost of governing for different types of coalition participation. The evidence suggests that the prime minister in a coalition is partially insulated from the penalties of government and thus should try to attract junior coalition members whenever possible.

Working papers

Group identity or policy compromise? Coalition-based inferences about opposition parties

Are voters’ perceptions of opposition parties altered by the formation of a coalition gov- ernment? Recent studies suggest that voters in multiparty systems use coalition information to make inferences about governing parties’ ideological positions. I argue that a similar mech- anism applies to opposition parties, but that varying levels of political sophistication among voters will motivate different inferences due to fundamental differences in how voters concep- tualize the left-right. Using survey data from both the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems 1996-2018 and the European Election Study 1989-2014, I find that coalition formation has an impact on the perception of opposition parties that is comparable in size to that of coalition partners, but the direction is contingent on the individual level of education, polit- ical interest and knowledge. Low sophisticates view all opposition parties as similar, while high sophisticates perceive opposition parties as different if divided by the current coalition government.

Coalition-based Inferences about Positions on Economic, Moral and Cultural Issues

Recent literature suggests that the distinction between parties in government and opposition may be the most important signal that structures voters’ perceptions of political parties’ positions and voters’ understanding of the political space more generally. Are coalition-based inferences evidence of categorization and short-cuts or suggestive of a deeper understanding of coalition formation among voters? Do voters simply group parties into government and opposition and then move the members within each group closer to each other regardless of political issue in question? Or can coalition signals enable more sophisticated inferences too? In this paper, I examine whether voters recognize that some political issues might be driving coalition formation whereas others are largely unrelated. I rely on party placements from the Dutch Parliamentary Election Studies (1981-2012) and the Danish National Election Study (1994-2015). I examine dyadic distances between parties along 11 issue scales, including income equality, European unification, immigration, law and order, and the environment, as well as the left-right dimension. If the coalition-based inferences extend to economic, moral, and cultural issues, it would clearly suggest that these dimensions will become aligned in the perceptions of voters.

Operationalizing Niche Parties: Definitional Disagreement and its Implications for Strategic Party Behavior (with Jelle Koedam)

The literature on the concept of niche parties is rapidly growing. Yet, despite a common sense understanding of what characterizes this subset of European political parties, and how they are different from their mainstream competitors, little consensus exist on their operationalization. This paper explores the variation in the main definitions that scholars have used to identify niche parties, or “nicheness”, and analyzes its implications for the validity of the findings about the appeal and strategic behavior of these parties. We replicate one of the most cited articles in this field (Ezrow et al. 2010), which argues that niche parties are more responsive to their supporters than mainstream parties. Using a variety of elite and mass-level datasets, covering more than twenty countries in the period 2002-2016, we show that this key finding is sensitively dependent on the employed definition, as well as the assumption of unidimensional political contestation. This paper has important implications for our understanding of party strategy and democratic representation. This paper explores the variation in the main definitions that scholars have used to identify niche parties, or “nicheness”, and analyzes its implications for the validity of the findings about the appeal and strategic behavior of these parties.