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The Attribution of Credit and Blame to Governments and Its Impact on Vote Choice


This article examines how voters attribute credit and blame to governments for policy success and failure, and how this affects their party support. Using panel data from Britain between 1997 and 2001 and Ireland between 2002 and 2007 to model attribution, the interaction between partisanship and evaluation of performance is shown to be crucial. Partisanship resolves incongruities between party support and policy evaluation through selective attribution: favoured parties are not blamed for policy failures and less favoured ones are not credited with policy success. Furthermore, attributions caused defections from Labour over the 1997–2001 election cycle in Britain, and defections from the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrat coalition over the 2002–07 election cycle in Ireland. Using models of vote switching and controlling for partisanship to minimize endogeneity problems, it is shown that attributed evaluations affect vote intention much more than unattributed evaluations. This result holds across several policy areas and both political systems.

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V. O. Key , The Responsible Electorate (New York: Vintage, 1966)

Anthony Heath , Roger Jowell and John Curtice , The Rise of New Labour: Party Policies and Voter Choices (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001)

Michael Marsh , Richard Sinnott , John Garry and Fiachra Kennedy , The Irish Voter: The Nature of Electoral Competition in the Republic of Ireland (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008), pp. 81108

Simon Price and David Sanders (‘Economic Expectations and Voting Intentions in the UK, 1979–87 – A Pooled Cross-Section Approach’, Political Studies, 43 (1995), 451471)

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British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science
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