Stegmaier weighs economic perceptions against party support  

Mary Stegmaier

In a recent study, Truman School assistant professor Dr. Mary Stegmaier, along with Dr. Laron Williams from the University of Missouri and Dr. Marc Debus from Mannheim University in Germany, looked at how the public holds political parties accountable in the context of a coalition government.  A coalition government forms between two or more parties when no party controls a majority of seats in the legislature. In countries like Germany, where four or more parties typically have seats in parliament, coalition governments are the norm.

Taking a novel analytical approach to estimating party support in Germany, the researchers identified which parties in which positions in government (i.e., holding the chancellorship, serving as a junior coalition member, or in opposition) reap rewards or punishment based on how voters felt about the economy.

The study found that, when evaluating the economy, the public focuses on the dominant party in government. When economic perceptions improve, the dominant coalition party gains support; however, support for the junior coalition party does not change. Conversely, when economic perceptions deteriorate, the dominant coalition party loses support while, again, support for the junior coalition party does not change.

Given these findings, the researcher conclude that, in terms of governance and accountability, the dominant coalition party has much to gain or lose from changes in the economy. The junior party, on the other hand, is less likely to receive either credit or blame on economic issues.

Read more in the full article, “Relaxing the constant economic vote restriction: Economic evaluations and party support in Germany,” published in Party Politics; 23(3), 286-296 (2017).

Stegmaier’s research focuses on voting behavior, elections, and political representation in the U.S. and abroad. Her prior articles have been published in the Annual Review of Political ScienceElectoral StudiesPublic ChoicePolitical Behavior, Political Science Research and Methods, and Politics and Policy.