Which Promises Actually Matter? Understanding Promissory Representation with Conjoint Analysis of Election Pledges

28 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2018

See all articles by Jonathan Mellon

Jonathan Mellon

University of Manchester

Christopher Prosser

University of Manchester

Jordan Urban

University of Cambridge

Adam Feldman

University of Warwick

Date Written: November 13, 2018

Abstract

Parties make hundreds of campaign promises but voters hear about very few of them. Despite this, studies of promissory representation treat all promises equally when assessing how well governments fulfil their mandates. We argue that pledge fulfillment should be judged by what voters thought they signed up for, so that promises perceived as central to the party's agenda are weighted higher. To measure centrality, 4,908 respondents were shown combinations of policies from the 2017 UK Conservative manifesto (257 policies) in a conjoint design. We asked respondents how central these policies were to the Conservatives' agenda. Our results show that although few election pledges were about the EU (5%), these promises constitute 35% of the Conservative agenda after weighting by the conjoint results. Additionally, reweighting shows that the Conservatives have only completed 37% of their agenda compared to 46% unweighted. Consequently, pledge centrality cannot be ignored when assessing pledge fulfillment.

Keywords: promise keeping, promissory representation, UK politics, manifestos, pledge fulfillment, brexit, EU

Suggested Citation

Mellon, Jonathan and Prosser, Christopher and Urban, Jordan and Feldman, Adam, Which Promises Actually Matter? Understanding Promissory Representation with Conjoint Analysis of Election Pledges (November 13, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3283813 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3283813

Jonathan Mellon (Contact Author)

University of Manchester ( email )

Oxford Road
Manchester, M13 9PL
United Kingdom

Christopher Prosser

University of Manchester ( email )

Oxford Road
Manchester, M13 9PL
United Kingdom

Jordan Urban

University of Cambridge ( email )

Trinity Ln
Cambridge, CB2 1TN
United Kingdom

Adam Feldman

University of Warwick ( email )

Gibbet Hill Rd.
Coventry, West Midlands CV4 8UW
United Kingdom

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