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Platforms, Portfolios, Policy: How Audience Costs Affect Social Welfare Policy in Multiparty Cabinets

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 February 2018


When and why do electoral commitments enhance parties’ ability to implement their preferred policy in multiparty governments? We propose an audience costs theory whereby strong platform commitments enhance parties’ negotiating positions in multiparty cabinets but only when they are on a salient policy issue for core voters and the party controls the policy-relevant portfolio. Utilizing new data on portfolio allocations in eight parliamentary democracies over 40 years, we show that absent a strong platform commitment, control of the portfolio of social affairs by social democrats, alone, is not associated with changes in welfare generosity. Notably, our findings are independent of party size and hold in most multiparty legislative systems not dominated by three parties.

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© The European Political Science Association 2018 

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Despina Alexiadou, Chancellor’s Fellow, and Danial Hoepfner, Phd Candidate in Political Science, University of Pittsburgh, 4600 Wesley W. Posvar Hall Pittsburgh, PA 15260 ( The authors are grateful to Jude Hays, Sona Golder, Rob Franzese, Ken Kollman, James Morrow, Margit Tavits, Seki Katsunori, Daniela Donno, Julia Gray, Jon Woon, the PSRM editor and the two anonymous reviewers for their excellent comments and advise. We also thank Darina Dintcheva for ensuring the replicability of our empirical results. To view supplementary material for this article, please visit


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