Voters’ Wrath? Policy change and government popularity

Christoph Arndt*, Carsten Jensen, Georg Wenzelburger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Recent research suggests that voters are bad at responding in a meaningful way to policy events when deciding for whom to vote. Voters rely on so-called “blind retrospection”, punishing governments for events outside politicians' control. However, another core aspect of the blind retrospection perspective has not been put to the test: are voters unable to respond to policy decisions that clearly are under the politicians' control? We construct a unique large-N dataset on legislative changes in German old age pensions and unemployment protection to see if cutbacks and expansions lead to lower/higher support for the government. Our data are exceptionally fine-grained and allow us to track the policy-vote link for 416 months from 1977 to 2013 with a total of 329,167 respondents. We find substantial support for the notion that voters react in a meaningful way to policy changes, but also that they can be distracted by high-profile, extreme events.

Original languageEnglish
JournalGovernance: An international journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions
Pages (from-to)147-169
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


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