The Effect of Campaign Promises on Voter Behavior (Book Project)


Representation is essential to democratic government: elected officials respond to their constituents. There are many theories that investigate the types and processes of representation (Pitkin 1967, Mansbridge 2003, Disch 2011). An important aspect of representation that many study is responsiveness between voters and representatives, and resulting policy, often referred to as substantive representation (Miller and Stokes 1963; Erikson et al, 2002; Druckman and Jacobs 2015). One aspect of substantive representation is promissory representation: the idea that candidates issue promises to voters, hoping to attract supporters, and voters acting to use these promises to adjudicate the performance of elected officials. Responsiveness to promises has been studied largely to determine the frequency with which candidates keep their promises (Pétry and Collette 2009; Sulkin 2009; Naurin 2014). However, an important piece of this pathway is being ignored, particularly in the study of U. S. politics. What types of promises are being made to voters? How do promises affect voter decision-making, and what pathways and conditions influence how promises matter to voters? Finally, what happens to voter perceptions of politicians who break campaign promises? In this book, I examine these questions and find that not only are there important variations in campaign promises, but that these promises polarize voter opinions of politicians by attracting similarly-positioned voters and strongly repelling voters who disagree with a candidate's position. In addition, I find that broken promises have an incredibly strong negative effect on voter opinions of candidates: in part, because voters perceive promise breakers as less honest and less likely to follow through in the future than candidates who more weakly took the same position.

For more information, please read the book proposal. Sample chapters are also available upon request.