Skip to main content Accessibility help

Economic Voting under Coalition Governments: Evidence from Germany*

  • Marc Debus, Mary Stegmaier and Jale Tosun

This article analyzes the impact of economic voting in federal elections for the German parliament. It combines theories of coalition politics and cabinet decision making—like prime ministerial government, collective cabinet decision making and ministerial discretion—with theoretical approaches on voting behavior to test which cabinet actor voters reward for improved economic conditions. The empirical results, which are based on data from German national election studies from 1987–2009, show that the party of the chancellor (and, thus, the strongest coalition party) benefits most from a positive evaluation of economic policy outcomes. There is, however, no consistent empirical evidence that the coalition parties collectively benefit from perceived positive economic performance. Therefore the findings demonstrate that economic voting occurs in German parliamentary elections, but is targeted specifically toward the chancellor's party.

Hide All
*Marc Debus is professor of comparative government, School of Social Sciences, University of Mannheim, A5, 6, 68131 Mannheim, Germany ( Mary Stegmaier is a teaching assistant professor in the Truman School of Public Affairs, University of Missouri, 900 University Ave, Columbia, Missouri 65211-6100 ( Jale Tosun is a visiting professor at the University of Heidelberg and post-doctoral research fellow at the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research, University of Mannheim, A5, 6, 68131 Mannheim, Germany ( An earlier version of this article was presented at the 71st Conference of the Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA), Chicago, IL, 11–14 April 2013. Grant support is gratefully acknowledged from the German Research Foundation (DE 1667/2-1). We would like to thank MPSA panel participants and the referees for their valuable comments.
Hide All
Abney, Ronni, Adams, James, Clark, Michael, Easton, Malcolm, Ezrow, Lawrence, Kosmidis, SpyrosNeundorf, Anja. 2013. ‘When Does Valence Matter? Heightened Valence Effects for Governing Parties during Election Campaigns’. Party Politics 19(1):6182.
Adams, James F., Merrill, SamuelGrofman, Bernard. 2005. A Unified Theory of Party Competition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Alvarez, Michael R.Nagler, Jonathan. 1998. ‘When Politics and Models Collide. Estimating Models of Multiparty Elections’. American Journal of Political Science 42(1):5596.
Anderson, Christopher J. 1995. Blaming the Government: Citizens and the Economy in Five European Democracies. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe.
Anderson, Christopher J. 2000. ‘Economic Voting and Political Context: A Comparative Perspective’. Electoral Studies 19(2/3):151170.
Anderson, Christopher J.Hecht, Jason D.. 2012. ‘Voting When the Economy Goes Bad, Everyone is in Charge, and No One is to Blame: The Case of the 2009 German Election’. Electoral Studies 31(1):519.
Andeweg, Rudy. 2000. ‘Ministers as Double Agents? The Delegation Process between Cabinet and Ministers’. European Journal of Political Research 37(3):377395.
Andeweg, Rudy B., De Winter, LievenDumont, Patrick. 2011. Puzzles of Government Formation: Coalition Theory and Deviant Cases. London, UK: Routledge.
Armingeon, KlausGiger, Nathalie. 2008. ‘Conditional Punishment. A Comparative Analysis of the Electoral Consequences of Welfare State Retrenchment in OECD Nations, 1980–2003’. West European Politics 31(3):558580.
Bäck, Hanna. 2003. Explaining Coalitions. Evidence and Lessons From Studying Coalition Formation in Swedish Local Government. Uppsala, Sweden: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis.
Bäck, Hanna, Debus, MarcDumont, Patrick. 2011. ‘Who Gets What in Coalition Governments? Predictors of Portfolio Allocation in Parliamentary Democracies’. European Journal of Political Research 50(4):441478.
Bäck, Hanna, Debus, Marc, Müller, Wolfgang C.. 2012. Intra-Party Diversity and Ministerial Selection in Coalition Governments. Working Paper. University of Lund, Sweden; University of Mannheim, Germany; University of Vienna, Austria.
Banaszak, Lee AnnDoerschler, Peter. 2012. ‘Coalition Type and Voter Support for Parties: Grand Coalitions in German Elections’. Electoral Studies 31(1):4659.
Benoit, KennethLaver, Michael. 2006. Party Policy in Modern Democracy. London, UK: Routledge.
Blondel, JeanMüller-Rommel, Ferdinand. 1993. Governing Together: The Extent and Limits of Joint Decision-making in Western European Cabinets. Houndmills, UK: Macmillan.
Bräuninger, Thomas. 2005. ‘A Partisan Model of Government Expenditure’. Public Choice 125(3/4):409429.
Campbell, Angus, Converse, Philip E., Miller, Warren E.Stokes, Donald E.. 1960. The American Voter. New York: University of Chicago Press.
Carey, John M. 2009. Legislative Voting and Accountability. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Däubler, ThomasDebus, Marc. 2009. ‘Government Formation and Policy Formulation in the German States’. Regional & Federal Studies 19(1):7395.
Debus, Marc. 2012. ‘Sozialstrukturelle und einstellungsbasierte Determinanten des Wahlverhaltens und ihr Einfluss bei den Bundestagswahlen im Zeitverlauf: Westdeutschland 1976–2009’. In Wählen in Deutschland, Sonderheft der Politischen Vierteljahresschrift, edited by Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck, 4062. Baden-Baden, Germany: Nomos.
Dow, Jay K.Endersby, James W.. 2004. ‘Multinomial Probit and Multinomial Logit: A Comparison of Choice Models for Voting Research’. Electoral Studies 23(1):107122.
Downs, Anthony. 1957. An Economic Theory of Democracy. New York: Harper.
Druckman, James N.Warwick, Paul V.. 2005. ‘The Missing Piece: Measuring Portfolio Salience in Western European Parliamentary Democracies’. European Journal of Political Research 44(1):1742.
Duch, Raymond M. 2007. ‘Comparative Studies of the Economy and the Vote’. In The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Politics, edited by Carles Boix and Susan C. Stokes, 805844. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Duch, Raymond M.Stevenson, Randolph T.. 2008. The Economic Vote: How Political and Economic Institutions Condition Election Results. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Evans, Geoffrey. 1999. ‘Class Voting. From Premature Obituary to Reasoned Appraisal’. In The End of Class Politics? Class Voting in Comparative Context, edited by Geoffrey Evans, 120. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Faas, Thorsten. 2010. Arbeitslosigkeit und Wählerverhalten: Direkte und indirekte Wirkungen auf Wahlbeteiligung und Parteipräferenzen in Ost- und Westdeutschland. Baden-Baden, Germany: Nomos.
Feld, Lars P.Kirchgässner, Gebhard. 2000. ‘Official and Hidden Unemployment and the Popularity of the Government: An Econometric Analysis for the Kohl Government’. Electoral Studies 19(2/3):333347.
Fröchling, Henrike. 1998. Ökonomie und Wahlen in westlichen Demokratien – Analysen aus Anlass der Bundestagswahl 1998. Wiesbaden, Germany: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.
Geys, BennyVermeir, Jan. 2008. ‘The Political Cost of Taxation: New Evidence from German Popularity Ratings’. Electoral Studies 27(4):633648.
Giger, NathalieNelson, Moira. 2011. ‘The Electoral Consequences of Welfare State Reform. Blame Avoidance or Credit Claiming in the Era of Permanent Austerity?’ European Journal of Political Research 50(1):123.
Goergen, ChristianNorpoth, Helmut. 1991. Government Turnover and Economic Accountability. Electoral Studies 10(3):191207.
Kam, Christopher, Bianco, William T., Sened, ItaiSmyth, Regina. 2010. ‘Ministerial Selection and Intraparty Organization in the Contemporary British Parliament’. American Political Science Review 104(2):289306.
Kaspar, HannaFalter, Jürgen W.. 2009. ‘Angenähert oder ausdifferenziert? Das Wahlverhalten in Ost- und Westdeutschland bei der Bundestagswahl 2005’. In Wahlen und Wähler. Analysen aus Anlass der Bundestagswahl 2005, edited by Oscar W. Gabriel, Bernhard Wessels, and Jürgen W. Falter, 202227. Wiesbaden, Germany: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.
Klein, Markus, Jagodzinski, Wolfgang, Mochmann, EkkehardOhr, Dieter. 2000. 50 Jahre empirische Wahlforschung in Deutschland. Entwicklung, Befunde, Perspektiven, Daten. Wiesbaden, Germany: Westdeutscher Verlag.
Kosmidis, SpyrosXezonakis, Georgios. 2010. ‘The Undecided Voters and the Economy: Campaign Heterogeneity in the 2005 British General Election’. Electoral Studies 29(4):604616.
Laver, MichaelHunt, W. Ben. 1992. Policy and Party Competition. New York: Routledge.
Laver, MichaelShepsle, Kenneth A.. 1996. Making and Breaking Governments: Cabinets and Legislatures in Parliamentary Democracies. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Lewis-Beck, Michael S. 1986. ‘Comparative Economic Voting: Britain, France, Germany, Italy’. American Journal of Political Science 30(2):315346.
Lewis-Beck, Michael S. 1988. Economics and Elections: The Major Western Democracies. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Lewis-Beck, Michael S. Jacoby, William G., Norpoth, HelmutWeisberg, Herbert F.. 2008. The American Voter Revisited. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Lewis-Beck, Michael S.Stegmaier, Mary. 2000. ‘Economic Determinants of Electoral Outcomes’. Annual Review of Political Science 3:183219.
Lewis-Beck, Michael S.Stegmaier, Mary. 2007. ‘Economic Models of Voting’. In The Oxford Handbook of Political Behavior, edited by Russell Dalton and Hans-Dieter Klingemann, 518537. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Lewis-Beck, Michael S.Stegmaier, Mary. 2008. ‘The Economic Vote in Transitional Democracies’. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties 18(3):303323.
Lewis-Beck, Michael S.Stegmaier, Mary. forthcoming. ‘The VP-Function Revisited: A Survey of the Literature on Vote and Popularity Functions after over 40 Years’. Public Choice.
Lipset, Seymour M.Rokkan, Stein. 1967. ‘Cleavage Structures, Party Systems and Voter Alignments: An Introduction’. In Party Systems and Voter Alignments: Cross-National Perspectives, edited by Seymour M. Lipset and Stein Rokkan, 164. New York: The Free Press.
Martin, Lanny W.Stevenson, Randolph T.. 2001. ‘Government Formation in Parliamentary Democracies’. American Journal of Political Science 45(1):3350.
McFadden, Daniel. 1974. ‘Conditional Logit Analysis of Qualitative Choice Behaviour’. In Frontiers in Econometrics, edited by Paul Zarembka, 105142. New York: Academic Press.
Müller, Wolfgang C. 2000. ‘Austria: Tight Coalitions and Stable Governments’. In Coalition Governments in Western Europe, edited by Wolfgang C. Müller and Kaare Strøm, 86125. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Müller, Wolfgang C.Strøm, Kaare. 2008. ‘Coalition Agreements and Cabinet Governance’. In Cabinets and Coalition Bargaining: The Democratic Life Cycle in Western Europe, edited by Kaare Strøm, Wolfgang C. Müller and Torbjörn Bergman, 159199. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Müller-Rommel, Ferdinand. 1994. ‘The Role of German Ministers in Cabinet Decision Making’. In Cabinet Ministers and Parliamentary Government, edited by Michael Laver and Kenneth Shepsle, 150168. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Nadeau, Richard, Lewis-Beck, Michael S.Bélanger, Éric. 2013. ‘Economics and Elections Revisited’. Comparative Political Studies 46(5):551573.
Norpoth, HelmutGschwend, Thomas. 2010. ‘The Chancellor Model: Forecasting German Elections’. International Journal of Forecasting 26(1):4253.
O'Malley, Eoin. 2007. ‘The Power of Prime Ministers: Results of an Expert Survey’. International Political Science Review 28(1):727.
Pappi, Franz U. 2009. ‘Regierungsbildung im deutschen Fünf-Parteiensystem’. Politische Vierteljahresschrift 50(2):187202.
Pappi, Franz U.Brandenburg, Jens. 2010. ‘Sozialstrukturelle Interessenlagen und Parteipräferenz in Deutschland: Stabilität und Wandel seit 1980’. Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie 62(3):459483.
Pappi, Franz U.Shikano, Susumu. 2007. Wahl- und Wählerforschung. Theorien und Forschungsstand. Baden-Baden, Germany: Nomos.
Powell, G. Bingham Jr.Whitten, Guy D.. 1993. ‘A Cross-National Analysis of Economic Voting: Taking Account of the Political Context’. American Journal of Political Science 37(2):391414.
Rattinger, HansFaas, Thorsten. 2001. ‘Wahrnehmungen der Wirtschaftslage und Wahlverhalten 1977 bis 1998’. In Wahlen und Wähler: Analysen aus Anlaß der Bundestagswahl 1998, edited by Hans-Dieter Klingemann and Max Kaase, 283308. Wiesbaden, Germany: Westdeutscher Verlag.
Rattinger, Hans, Roßteutscher, Sigrid, Schmitt-Beck, RüdigerWeßels, Bernhard. 2011. Zwischen Langeweile und Extremen: Die Bundestagswahl 2009. Baden-Baden, Germany: Nomos.
Rattinger, HansSteinbrecher, Markus. 2011. ‘Economic Voting in Times of Economic Crisis’. German Politics 20(1):132149.
Roller, Edeltraud. 2005. The Performance of Democracies. Political Institutions and Public Policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Saalfeld, Thomas. 2000. ‘Coalitions in Germany: Stable Parties, Chancellor Democracy and the Art of Informal Settlement’. In Coalition Governments in Western Europe, edited by Wolfgang C. Müller and Kaare Strøm, 3285. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Schmitt-Beck, Rüdiger, Weick, StephanChristoph, Bernhard. 2006. ‘Shaky Attachments. Individual-level Stability and Change of Partisanship among West German Voters, 1984–2001’. European Journal of Political Research 45(4):581608.
Steinbrecher, MarkusSteiner, Nils. 2011. ‘Wirtschaft und Wahlverhalten in Westdeutschland zwischen 1977 und 2007: Wer sind die ökonomischen Wähler?’ In Wählen in Deutschland, Sonderheft der Politischen Vierteljahresschrift, edited by Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck, 321344. Baden-Baden, Germany: Nomos.
Stinchcombe, Arthur L. 1975. ‘Social Structure and Politics’. In Macropolitical Theory: Handbook of Political Science 3, edited by Fred I. Greenstein and Nelson W. Polsby, 557622. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Stokes, Donald E. 1963. ‘Spatial Models of Party Competition’. American Political Science Review 57(2):368377.
Strøm, Kaare. 2000. ‘Delegation and Accountability in Parliamentary Democracies’. European Journal of Political Research 37(3):261289.
Strøm, Kaare, Müller, Wolfgang C.Bergman, Torbjörn. 2008. Cabinets and Coalition Bargaining: The Democratic Life Cycle in Western Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Thurner, Paul W. 2000. ‘The Empirical Application of the Spatial Theory of Voting in Multiparty Systems with Random Utility Models’. Electoral Studies 19(4):493517.
Tosun, Jale. 2011. ‘Political Parties and Marine Pollution Policy: Exploring the Case of Germany’. Marine Policy 35(4):536541.
Van der Brug, Wouter, Van der Eijk, CeesFranklin, Mark. 2007. The Economy and the Vote: Economic Conditions and Elections in Fifteen Countries. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Wattenberg, Martin P. 1991. The Rise of Candidate-Centered Politics. Presidential Elections of the 1980s. Cambridge, UK: Harvard University Press.
Whitten, Guy D.Palmer, Harvey D.. 1999. ‘Cross-National Analyses of Economic Voting’. Electoral Studies 18(1):4967.
Wilkin, Sam, Haller, BrandonNorpoth, Helmut. 1997. ‘From Argentina to Zambia: A World-wide Test of Economic Voting’. Electoral Studies 16(3):301316.
Zohlnhöfer, Reimut. 2003. ‘Partisan Politics, Party Competition and Veto Players: German Economic Policy in the Kohl Era’. Journal of Public Policy 23(2):123156.
Zohlnhöfer, Reimut. 2004. ‘Destination Anywhere? The German Red-Green Government's Inconclusive Search for a Third Way in Economic Policy’. German Politics 13(1):106131.
Zohlnhöfer, Reimut. 2011. ‘The 2009 Federal Election and the Economic Crisis’. German Politics 20(1):1227.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Political Science Research and Methods
  • ISSN: 2049-8470
  • EISSN: 2049-8489
  • URL: /core/journals/political-science-research-and-methods
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed