The Strength of Promissory Representation : What Makes MPs Change their Positions ?
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Paper prepared for the NCCR Workshop 'Political representation: New forms of measuring and old challenges, University of Bern, 12 November 2009 - 13 November 2009. DOI : 10.5167/uzh-27983
The paper analyses the positional congruence between pre-election statements in the Swiss voting assistance application "smartvote" and post-election behaviour in the Swiss lower house between 2003 and 2009. For this purpose, we selected 34 smartvote questions which subsequently came up in parliament. Unlike previous studies which assessed the program-to-policy linkage of governments or party groups the paper examines the question at the level of individual MPs which seems appropriate for political systems which follow the idea of power dispersion. While the average rate of political congruence is at some 85 percent, a multivariate analysis detects the underlying factors which push or curb a candidate's propensity to change his or her mind once elections are over. The results show that positional changes are more likely if (1) MPs are freshmen, (2) individual voting behaviour is invisible to the public, (3) the vote is not about a party's core issue, (4) the MP belongs to a party which is located in the political centre, and (5) if the pre-election statement is in disagreement with the majority position of the legislative party group. The last-mentioned factor is paramount: the farer away a candidate's pre-election profile from his or her party is located, the weaker turns out to be the electoral link of promissory representation.
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