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.

Presented at the general meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA), Chicago, United States, April 2019.

PAPER 2. Which citizens are more likely to accept or reject coalition compromises and why?
While other papers derived from my project focus on citizen preferences on the 'package deal' being compromised by political parties, this study zooms in on the variation across voters. 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 during 2019 and 2020.

In preparation for presentation at the European Consortium of Political Research (ECPR) general conference, Wrocław, Poland, September 2019.

PAPER 3. 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.
PAPER 4. 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.


Data Collection
  • (Completed) Coalition agreements coding in terms electoral pledges, ideological position and issue saliency for Austria (2013-2017), Germany (2013-2017), United Kingdom (2010).
  • (Completed) Original survey data collection for Spain. Fieldwork April 28th -May 1st,2019
  • (In Progress) Coalition agreements coding in terms electoral pledges, ideological position and issue saliency for Germany (1998-2009), Netherlands (2002-2006).
  • (In Progress) Original survey data collection for Austria, Denmark, Italy and United Kingdom

Interviews and Media Appearance


Advisory Board

Sylvia Kritzinger, University of Vienna (mentor)

Heike Klüver, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

David Fortunato, Texas A&M University


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, Rathausstrasse 19/1, 1010 Vienna