Compromise Reaction

A study into the Consequences of Coalition Government Compromise on Public Opinion

by Carolina Plescia, Department of Government, University of Vienna

funded by the Hertha Firnberg project of the FWF The Austrian Science Fund

This website provides a general overview of the project as well as updated information about data collection and paper presentations. Stay tuned!


The project addresses the following research questions:

  1. which coalition compromises are more likely to be accepted by voters?
  2. which citizens are more likely to accept or resist coalition compromises?
  3. what short and long term consequences coalition compromises have on voters?

In this project, I pursue two major goals. First, I aim to develop a comprehensive theoretical framework that, while taking into account the heterogeneity of voters and coalition agreements, examines both the specific and diffuse consequences that government compromises have on voters in European democracies. Second, I will empirically test my theoretical expectations using existing survey data and novel survey experiments. To this end, survey evidence is coupled with an original content analysis of coalition compromises that takes into account not only the policy and ideological orientation of coalition agreements but also the use of nonpartisan experts and transparency in negotiation deliberations that are likely to have important electoral ramifications.

The findings of this research will provide important insights into the difficulties and challenges of today’s representative democracy. The evidence produced by this project is important especially in light of increasingly polarized public opinion and the recent success of ‘populist’ parties that tend to refute government participation and the key features intrinsic to pluralism, that is, elite bargaining and compromise.


PAPER 1. Compromising for worldly rewards? The short-term consequences of coalition agreements on voters.
How do people react to coalition agreements? This paper examines the short-term consequences of coalition agreements on voters in European democracies relying on survey panel data and original content analysis of coalition agreements. It tests a set of theoretical expectations that deal with what makes voters less likely to be satisfied with government agreements, focusing on variation across coalition agreements and across voters. The results indicate that coalition agreements have important consequences on voters, but more so for party identifiers and on issues that voters consider important. These findings have important implications for our understanding of public opinion and provide important insights into the current difficulties and challenges of representative democracy.

Paper presented at the general meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA), Chicago, United States, April 2019, at the European Consortium of Political Research (ECPR) general conference, Wrocław, Poland, September 2019, at the University of Montreal and at the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research (MZES).

Currently under review.

PAPER 2. Do party supporters accept policy compromises in coalition governments?
This paper studies voters’ willingness to accept policy compromises during government formation processes. We argue that voters’ acceptance of policy compromises depends on both the strength of their party attachment and the importance they assign to the issue at stake during the coalition negotiations. Not giving in on important issues is key especially for supporters of challenger parties since their support is almost entirely dependent on those key issues. To test these expectations, we collected original survey data immediately after the Spanish general election in November 2019. (with Alejandro Ecker and Thomas M. Meyer)

Forthcoming at the European Journal of Political Research.

PAPER 3. Which citizens are more likely to accept or reject coalition compromises and why?
This paper examines the crucial role played by voters' preferences - for the compromising parties and the arguments they use to justify their compromises-, and by voters' understanding and attitudes toward compromise in general. To this end, the project collects original data using vignette survey experiments run in the days immediately after the elections. Surveys are run in selected countries in Europe during 2019 and 2020 (with Mariyana Angelova).

Working paper.

PAPER 4. Politicians for a day. Citizens' views on government formation after the elections.
This paper uses original, rich data gathered using open-ended questions to study citizens' views on government formation right after elections in multiparty settings. In particular, this study examines whether citizens themselves are capable of producing (complex) arguments that fit politicians' logic of government formation. Data are analyzed using both trained human coders and an automated routine for discovering lexical features.

Working paper. Paper to be presented at the general meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA), April 2021.

PAPER 5. Voters’ preferences on compromise and logrolling during government formation.
In this paper, we study which policy concessions voters are willing to accept during coalition talks. We argue that voters prefer logrolling in coalition negotiations to policy compromises. We test these expectations based on a survey experiment in the context of the 2021 Dutch general election where we ask voters to evaluate the potential outcome of hypothetical coalition negotiations. (with Alejandro Ecker and Thomas M. Meyer)

Working paper.

PAPER 6. The long-term consequences of coalition agreements on voters.
Government compromises can attenuate political parties' ability to link to their core cleavages by altering their traditional policy positions and negate the social identity built on opposition to other parties. This is especially true for the so-called ‘grand coalition’ governments that usually bring together two large but ideologically dissimilar parties. This paper tests the effects of the depolarization of the compromising parties on their 'own' voters in terms of turnout, voting behaviour and satisfaction with democracy.

Working paper.


Data Collection
  • (Completed) Coalition agreements coding in terms electoral pledges, ideological position and issue saliency for Austria (2013-2017), Germany (1998-2017), Netherlands (2002-2006) and United Kingdom (2010).
  • (Completed) Original survey data collection for Spain (fieldwork April, 2019 and November 2019) and Austria (fieldwork October, 2019).
  • (Planned) Original survey data collection during the Dutch national election and the German federal election in 2021.

Interviews and Media Appearance


Advisory Board

Sylvia Kritzinger, University of Vienna (mentor)

Heike Klüver, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

David Fortunato, Texas A&M University


Alejandro Ecker, Universität Mannheim

Thomas M. Meyer, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin

Mariyana Angelova, Central European University

Anna-Lia Brunetti, University of Vienna


Sybil Bitter, University of Vienna

Nico Büttner, University of Vienna

Martin Fenz, University of Vienna

Simon Moser, University of Vienna


Carolina Plescia

Department of Government, University of Vienna, Kolingasse 14-16, 1090 Vienna