Published online by Cambridge University Press: 15 July 2020
Party elites in coalition governments are acutely aware that the deals they strike will be critically evaluated by their supporters, and that they risk losing support if they are perceived as ineffective negotiators. This has a powerful influence on the bargains parties strike. Because most supporters are unaware of the complex aspects of bargains and instead rely on simple heuristics to evaluate their most visible features, parties have incentives to meet supporter expectations primarily on easily observable outcomes. To do so, they make trade-offs on less observable outcomes. This implies that the more visible features of a bargain typically do not accurately reflect the relative success of parties in coalition negotiations. We evaluate our argument using original data on the office rewards and policy risks of portfolio allocation in 16 parliamentary democracies. Our findings support our argument, and they have important implications for the nature of representation under multiparty government.
We wish to thank Christoph Vanberg as well as seminar participants at Aarhus University, Emory University, Humboldt University, King’s College London, the University of Bologna, the University of Essex, the University of Kentucky, the University of Mannheim, the University of Milan, and the University of Zurich for helpful comments on previous versions of this article. Replication files are available at the American Political Science Review Dataverse: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/2CITBJ.