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Asymmetric Accountability: An Experimental Investigation of Biases in Evaluations of Governments’ Election Pledges

Journal article
Authors Elin Naurin
Stuart Soroka
Niels Markwat
Published in Comparative Political Studies
Volume 52
Issue 13-14
ISSN 0010-4140
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Political Science
Language en
Subject categories Political Science


Governments often fulfill election pledges to remain in power; yet, it is unclear how pledge fulfillment and breakage actually affect public support for government. This article explores the tendency for governments to be penalized for unfulfilled pledges more than they are rewarded for fulfilled pledges. In two large-scale highly realistic online survey experiments (N = 13,000, 10,000), performed at the beginning and middle of a government’s term in office, respondents are presented with a range of (real) election pledges. We find that broken pledges often are more important to government evaluations than fulfilled pledges, and that pledge fulfillment can produce decreases in support from nonsupporters that more than offset the marginal gains among supporters. Findings provide valuable evidence on asymmetries in political behavior, and a unique account of the “cost of ruling,” the seemingly inevitable tendency for governments to lose support during their time in office.

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