Which Promises Actually Matter? Understanding Promissory Representation with Conjoint Analysis of Election Pledges
28 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2018
Date Written: November 13, 2018
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
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