Several projects that study election pledges are ongoing. We have listed some of these here.
Promissory Democratic Representation: Campaign Promises in Australia
Funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC)
This study develops knowledge about election pledges in Australia, and in doing so the conditions under which parties keep or break the promises that they make to voters during election campaigns. The Australian case offers insightful points of comparison for pledge making, breaking and keeping in other countries. Among other factors, the researchers are examining the impacts of the personal characteristics of relevant politicians, pledge salience and unexpected events that happen after promises are made.
The university researchers who are leading the project (see below) are working very closely with esteemed Australian journalists Russell Skelton, Sushi Das, and Lis Sexton, at RMIT ABC Fact Check. Fact Check is a collaboration between the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) and Australia’s public broadcaster, the ABC. The RMIT ABC Fact Check team is developing a ‘Promise Tracker’ to assess the promises of the 2022 Australian government throughout the period. More information about RMIT ABC Fact Check can be found here.
Project led by Professors Robert Thomson, Patrick Dumont and Lisa Waller, and includes PhD researchers Frank Algra-Masschio and Sonny Thomas, and research assistant Freda Meng
Professor Elin Naurin at the University of Gothenburg leads ongoing research on election pledges in Sweden. The Swedish election pledge dataset includes all election pledges from all parliamentary parties between the election 1991 to 2018. Election pledge fulfillment is studied for governing parties between 1994 and 2018.
Ongoing research includes the coding of pledges in all tweets during the six months prior to the elections of 2014 and 2018. In addition, ongoing research includes mixed-methods studies that focus on specific policy areas, such as pledges on reproduction, immigration and law and order. Some of the Swedish pledge data are publicly available on Elin Naurin’s organisational page, linked above.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Pledge-Making by US Political Parties: A Longitudinal Study
This project begins to link the literature on party pledge-making and agenda-setting. During electoral campaigns, political parties pledge to voters what they will do if elected into government. After the election, they fulfill some pledges but abandon others due to attention and resource limitations. Unanticipated problems force their way onto the agenda, requiring parties to make hard choices. The study introduces a new dataset on the policy content of pledges by U.S. political parties from 1948 – 2016 by combining methods developed by the Comparative Pledges Project and the Comparative Agendas Project. The research presents a preliminary analysis of how pledge-making and fulfillment vary across issues and
suggest potential research questions that future scholars could answer with these data.
This project extends the pledge research to the largest democracy in the world, India. The ongoing research covers the election pledges between 1999 and 2019. The study focuses on pledges made by the two major parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Indian National Congress in the national parliamentary elections. The project also tracks the fulfillment of the pledges made in the most recent 2019 election. A publicly available pledge-tracker website will be launched in the near future.
The project is led by Professor Robert Thomson, and PhD researchers Pankaj Adhikari and Sania Mariam.
The project has had two papers published:
Adhikari, P., Mariam S., & Thomson R. (2022). Election pledges in India: comparisons with Western democracies. Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, 60(3), 254-275.
Adhikari, P., Mariam S., & Thomson R. (2022). The fulfilment of election pledges in India. Journal of Contemporary Asia.
Mixed methods for analyzing what political parties promise to voters during election campaigns
Funded by Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation (Riksbanken Jubileumsfond)
For democracy to function effectively, political parties must offer meaningful choices to voters during election campaigns. However, as parties’ communication with voters is becoming increasingly fragmented, targeted and direct, it is becoming impossible for citizens to keep track of what different parties are promising. These new styles of campaigning are also challenging established methods for studying parties’ campaign promises. This project aims to develop innovative new methods that for the first time will enable researchers to examine the qualitative content of what parties promise in the large quantity of text and speech in election campaigns. The project includes leaders of the world’s largest research group devoted to the qualitative analysis of parties’ campaign promises. It also includes researchers who have developed new and widely used methods for the quantitative analysis of political texts, which detect patterns among words and ideas in large amounts of text. Progress in this field has been stifled by limited dialogue among the proponents of different qualitative and quantitative methods. This project will examine the strengths, limitations and theoretical implications of the full range of methods used in this field. The new methods that we will develop aim to combine the strengths of different approaches. These existing and new methods are highly relevant to the analysis of text and speech in a wide range of social science fields.
This project is led by Professors Elin Naurin and Robert Thomson, working closely with an international team of talented researchers including Prof. Lena Wängnerud (Gothenburg) Prof. Dirk Howy (Bocconi), Prof. Slava Jankin (Hertie), Dr. Christian Arnold (Cardiff), Dr. Tom Dobber (Amsterdam) and Prof. Claes De Vreese (Amsterdam).
Political Inequality and Electoral Promises
In this project, political (in)equality at different levels of the political decision-making process is investigated comparatively for Germany and France. The focus is on the formulation and fulfillment of electoral promises with regard to the political representation of social groups. The project focuses on both the supply and the demand side of political competition. For which groups are election promises made and for whom are they implemented? What role do the mobilization resources and the social image of these groups play? How and under which conditions do citizens react to group-specific election promises (prospectively) and their fulfillment (retrospectively)? These questions are addressed using an innovative research design that combines campaign promise data, surveys, experimental designs, and case-specific research. The project is based at the University of Stuttgart, University of Trier, and Sciences Po.
Weighting Pledge Fulfillment: A Measure Based on Pledge Salience
Existing pledge trackers present a score of pledges fulfillment by considering each of the electoral pledges to be equal. The main objective of this project is to use the different indicators of pledges salience identified in existing academic work to conceptualize an aggregate measure, and then to develop a pledge weighting index. This measure and its index will be tested on the Canadian case with the Liberal Party’s 2021 election pledges and compared with the results of a non-weighted assessment of pledge fulfillment using Trudeau Polimeter data.
This project is led by Camille Tremblay-Antoine (Université Laval), Alexandre Fortier-Chouinard (University of Toronto), Adrien Cloutier and Prof. Yannick Dufresne (both Université Laval).
Recent publications on election pledges in Canada include:
Birch, L., & Pétry, F. (Eds.). (2019). Assessing Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Government: 353 Promises and a Mandate for Change. Presses de l’Université Laval.
During the 2015 election, the Liberal Party of Justin Trudeau promised to make real change in the lives of all Canadians. It is a good opportunity, on the eve of the next election, to provide a rigorous and impartial assessment of how the Liberal government has delivered on its campaign promises. Under the direction of Lisa Birch and Francois Petry, over twenty renowned academics investigate the fate of the 353 Liberal campaign promises in fields as varied as international relations, energy and climate change, the economy, Indigenous reconciliation, and the legalization of recreational cannabis. Collaborators draw from a shared set of documentary sources and rely on a common methodological approach to analyze and contextualize the pledge-fulfillment verdicts accessible on the Trudeau Polimetre website. Contrary to the popular belief that politicians make empty promises, it appears that the Liberals in power have fulfilled, at least in part, the vast majority of their promises. The book concludes with a reflection on the relevance and meaning of campaign promises for Canadian democracy. In particular, the authors ponder the paradox that fulfilling most of your campaign promises does not necessarily create a sense of enthusiasm among voters.
Birch, L., Dufresne, Y., Duval, D., & Tremblay-Antoine, C. (Eds.). (2022). Bilan du gouvernement de la CAQ : Entre nationalisme et pandémie. Presses de l’Université Laval.
On October 1, 2018, the victory of the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) marked the history of Quebec by ending four decades of alternation between the Liberal Party of Quebec and the Parti Québécois and the ideological polarization between federalism and independence. This new center-right government is committed to fulfilling 251 promises to better meet the economic needs, identity concerns and nationalist aspirations of Quebecers. However, since March 2020, it must manage a historic crisis in public health while trying to build the foundations of his future project for Quebec. In order to guide the public, this collective work proposes a non-partisan assessment of the performance of the first government of a new political party taking into account the consequences of the health crisis on the fulfillment of its commitments. Our collaborators from academic and journalistic circles take an enlightened look at this assessment by rigorously analyzing the facts of this government, whether its actions have or have not been the subject of electoral promises.
The Portuguese project on party pledges was initially part of a broader project devoted to the study of political agendas between 1995 and 2011, within the Comparative Agendas Project.
More recently, it has gained autonomy, with efforts being made to develop and update data collection. The Portuguese project dataset comprehends the pledges from all parliamentary parties and corresponding fulfillment, between 1995 and 2015, according to the methodology of the Comparative Pledges Project. In addition to identifying the promises in the electoral manifestos and their fulfillment, ongoing research also includes other complementary perspectives of analysis, namely: the left-right location of promises, and the legislative initiatives of the parties with a view to fulfilling the promises. Currently the project is led by Professor Ana M. Belchior, although past research has also involved the coordination of Professor Catherine Moury.
Belchior, Ana M. and Pedro Silveira (2022) The Effect of Ministerial Instability on Government & Mandate Fulfillment: Evidence from the Portuguese Case, Swiss Political Science Review, (online first).
Belchior, Ana M., Hugo F. Lopes, Luís Cabrita and Emmanouil Tsatsanis (2022) Government agendas & responsiveness: The influence of policy preferences, political parties and the economic context, International Political Science Review, (online first).
Belchior, Ana M. (2022) Does party colour matter? The effect of government partisanship on pledges’ left-right location», Parliamentary Affairs, (online first).
Silva, Sofia Serra, and Ana M. Belchior (2020) Understanding the pledge fulfilment of opposition parties using evidence from Portugal, European Politics and Society, 21(1), pp.72-90.
Borghetto, Enrico and Ana M. Belchior (2020) Party manifestos, opposition and media as determinants of the cabinet agenda, Political Studies, 68(1), pp.37-53.
Belchior, Ana M. (2019) The effects of party identification on perceptions of pledge fulfilment: Evidence from Portugal, International Political Science Research, 40(7), pp.627-642.