Citizens’ evaluations of the fulfillment of election pledges : evidence from Ireland

Thomson, Robert (2011) Citizens’ evaluations of the fulfillment of election pledges : evidence from Ireland. Journal of Politics, 73 (1). pp. 187-201. ISSN 0022-3816

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Abstract

The linkage between what parties promise during election campaigns and what governments deliver afterward is central to democratic theory. Research on this linkage concludes that there is a higher level of congruence between campaign promises and government actions than suggested by the conventional wisdom. This study is the first to describe and explain citizens’ evaluations of the fulfillment of election pledges in a way that is comparable with political scientists’ evaluations. The explanation of variation in citizens’ evaluations combines an objective factor, namely actual policy performance, and subjective factors, namely party identification, information resources, trust in political parties, and personal experience. The explanation is tested with panel data containing a unique set of questions on public opinion in Ireland. Actual policy performance is the most important factor affecting citizens’ evaluations. However, subjective factors often cause citizens’ evaluations to be more negative than actual policy performance suggests they should be.