Voter Perceptions of Agenda Power and Attribution of Responsibility for Economic Performance

In two recent experiments (one in the lab and one over the internet) concerning collective decision making we determined that individuals mainly assign responsibility to the decision maker with agenda power and with the largest vote share (Duch, Przepiorka and Stevenson 2012). We found rather weak evidence that responsibility is assigned to decision makers with veto power or allocated proportional to weighted voting power. Our conjecture then is that individuals in our online experiment who recognized the importance of proposal power in the embedded experiment will be those more likely to exercise an economic vote for the Conservative PM Party (since they are the agenda setter in the governing coalition) and for the opposition Labour Party. The conjecture is confirmed. Essentially, the data show that economic voting at the individual level is confined to individuals who understand the value of proposal power. This in turn suggests that the economic vote itself is motivated by a coherent attempt to punish or reward parties that actually deserve it in the specific sense that they were mostly responsible for choosing the policies that were implemented. Further, the strong reliance on proposal power as the workhorse of this mechanism of accountability, tells us that simple heuristics can do a lot of the work that cold rationality and complex calculation have done in much of the previous discussion of economic voting.

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