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  • Cited by 2
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
January 2022
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Book description

Campaign promises are a cornerstone of representative democracy. Candidates make promises to signal to voters their intentions in office and voters evaluate candidates based on those promises. This study unpacks the theorized pathway regarding campaign promises: not whether promises are kept, but what purpose promises serve, what they signal, and how they affect voter decision-making. The author explores the pathways and conditions influencing promises and finds that promises tend to have a polarizing effect on voters' opinions of politicians, attracting similarly-positioned voters and strongly repelling voters who disagree with a candidate's position. In addition, voters perceive promise breakers as less honest and less likely to follow through than candidates who more weakly took the same position. With a wealth of data and fascinating case studies, this book is full of important insights into electoral psychology and the study of promises, campaigning, and representation.


‘This book makes an important contribution to one of the most central aspects of representative democratic theory and practice: voters' views of election promises. Via a series of innovative survey experiments, the reader is given important insights into the details of how election promises are perceived by citizens. The book is also interesting as it moves our attention towards the promises that candidates make in election debates. Most work in the field so far has focused on pledges written down in election manifestos, and those are rarely read by voters.'

Elin Naurin - University of Gothenburg

‘Tabitha Bonilla's book is a must-read for those who want to understand campaigns and elections in modern America. Bonilla argues that promises matter. Voters care and evaluate their elected officials based on what they promise to do and whether they deliver on those promises.'

Christian Robert Grose - University of Southern California

‘Bonilla examines one of the oldest questions about democratic representation and accountability: what are we to make of candidates' promises? Her careful and thorough study finds that presidential candidates understand that promising something in a given issue area is an important commitment. She also finds that voters are often more negative towards candidates that promise something on an issue because it indicates inflexibility. This work extends our knowledge of how candidate behavior affects democratic processes and voting behavior. It is a substantial contribution.'

Daron Shaw - The University of Texas at Austin

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