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Measuring Voters’ Multidimensional Policy Preferences with Conjoint Analysis: Application to Japan’s 2014 Election

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 March 2018

Yusaku Horiuchi
Professor of Government and Mitsui Professor of Japanese Studies, Department of Government, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755, USA. Email:, URL:
Daniel M. Smith
Associate Professor, Department of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA. Email:, URL:
Teppei Yamamoto*
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA. Email:, URL:


Representative democracy entails the aggregation of multiple policy issues by parties into competing bundles of policies, or “manifestos,” which are then evaluated holistically by voters in elections. This aggregation process obscures the multidimensional policy preferences underlying a voter’s single choice of party or candidate. We address this problem through a conjoint experiment based on the actual party manifestos in Japan’s 2014 House of Representatives election. By juxtaposing sets of issue positions as hypothetical manifestos and asking respondents to choose one, our study identifies the effects of specific positions on the overall assessment of manifestos, heterogeneity in preferences among subgroups of respondents, and the popularity ranking of manifestos. Our analysis uncovers important discrepancies between voter preferences and the portrayal of the election results by politicians and the media as providing a policy mandate to the Liberal Democratic Party, underscoring the potential danger of inferring public opinion from election outcomes alone.

Copyright © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Society for Political Methodology. 

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Authors’ note: Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 2015 Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association; the 2015 Meeting of the American Political Science Association; and seminars at Dartmouth, Penn, MIT, Keio, Harvard, Doshisha, Stanford, Hiroshima, Yale, and GRIPS. We thank Mayumi Fukushima for her excellent research assistance, and Faisal Ahmed, Eric Beerbohm, Simon Chauchard, Kyle Dropp, Noam Gidron, Jane Green, Karen Jusko, Joshua Kertzer, Ellis Krauss, Kuniaki Nemoto, Brendan Nyhan, Steven Reed, Kay Shimizu, Arthur Spirling, Luke Swaine, Seiki Tanaka, and other conference and seminar participants for helpful feedback. Replication materials for this article are available at the Political Analysis Dataverse as Horiuchi, Smith, and Yamamoto (2017).

Contributing Editor: Jonathan N. Katz.


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