The meaning of mandates : party competition and the programme-to-policy linkage

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

The connection between political parties' campaign promises and government actions -known as the programme-to-policy linkage - has been a topic of scholarly interest for nearly half a century. Indeed, the degree to which governments follow up on their campaign pledges represents an important question for representative democracies as political systems in which regular elections serve as the mechanism for the enactment of public priorities.Despite voter cynicism, it has become well-established that election winners tend to redeem a healthy share of their pledges in office. However, studies of this linkage focused overwhelmingly on straightforward empirical assessments. This research has primarily examined the extent to which specific manifesto promises are enacted across countries and the institutional constraints which explain variation. Yet, serious questions persist about the origins and format of manifesto documents, the conceptualisation and measurement of the linkage and its significance for democracy in theory and practice. My doctoral thesis contributes to the programme-to-policy literature by shedding light on these gaps in current scholarly understanding.Through a series of sequential chapters, I address these questions. I first focus on the conceptualisation and measurement of linkage. In particular, I re-evaluate an influential alternative approach focused on the connection between issue emphasis and government spending by reassessing a canonical work in the literature and applying new tests.Having established the validity of an adapted version of this approach, finding that the party mandate extends to the government policy agenda in a UK context, I investigate the relationship between parties' issue emphasis and pledge-making strategies, introducing the concept of manifesto \composition" as distinct from policy content to examine its impact on pledge fulfilment. Finally, I turn to the idea of the responsible electorate, investigating the extent to which voters retrospectively reward parties for fulfilling pledges, identifying the first evidence that governments are punished for breaking their promises. By questioning established wisdom and innovating to offer a more comprehensive account of mandates,my thesis contributes greatly to the scholarly understanding of the meaning of the linkage and reaffirms the centrality of the oft-overlooked party manifesto to party competition, the policy agenda and public opinion.
Date of Award7 Jun 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SupervisorHeinz Brandenburg (Supervisor) & Zachary Greene (Supervisor)

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