The Program-to-Policy Linkage: A Comparative Study of Election Pledges and Government Policies in Ten Countries
31 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2012 Last revised: 7 Aug 2012
Date Written: 2012
The program-to-policy linkage refers to the level of congruence between what political parties promise during election campaigns, as set out in their election programs, and the policies delivered by governments after elections. The program-to-policy linkage is an important element of modern democratic theory. Moreover, institutionalist theories predict variation in the strength of the linkage according to the extent to which parties hold control over the levers of power. For instance, we expect a stronger linkage for parties that go on to form single-party governments that control both the executive and legislative branches after the elections than for parties that must share power with others. In coalition governments, we expect that control over relevant ministerial portfolios is a key explanatory factor. Economic conditions also affect the ability of governing parties to deliver on their policy commitments. In this paper we examine the program-to-policy linkage by focusing on election pledges: campaign policy commitments that are specific enough for researchers to test whether they were fulfilled during the subsequent governing period. We study the fulfillment of 12,128 election pledges made prior to the formation of forty-two governments in ten countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Portugal, Spain, Germany, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Ireland, and Italy. The analyses pay particular attention to the fulfillment of 7,063 pledges made by parties that controlled the presidency or entered single-party or coalition governments after the elections. The countries and time periods selected contain considerable variation in institutional conditions. The parliamentary governments include single-party governments with parliamentary majorities (in the UK, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Bulgaria), single-party minority governments (in Ireland, Sweden, Spain and Portugal), majority coalitions (in Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Italy and Bulgaria), and minority coalitions (in Ireland and Italy). The US cases include a period in which the Democrats controlled both the Presidency and Congress, as well as periods of divided government. The selected cases also contain variation in economic conditions.
Keywords: Election pledges, policymaking, elections, manifestos, platforms, representation, political parties
JEL Classification: D78
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