Opinion-Policy Nexus

Authors: Jason Roy and Christopher Alcantara

Published July 2012 in Electoral Studies.

Abstract: Do non-fixed election dates in Westminster parliamentary democracies create an unfair incumbent advantage? The consensus in the literature is that the incumbent party can gain an advantage at the ballot box by controlling election timing (Bakvis, 2001; Docherty, 2010; Smith, 2004; White, 2005; Wolinetz, 2005). Surprisingly, however, there is a lack of empirical evidence to support this claim. We address this lacuna by providing an empirical test of whether the election-timing power matters for incumbent vote support. We do so by employing an innovative web-based voting experiment. Our findings show that the government does gain an advantage by timing an election when it is to their advantage, but the context is limited to conditions where the election follows immediately after a heightened level of positive government coverage.


Thanks. My own view is that, based on these findings, fixed election dates are unnecessary if the concern is that First Ministers gain an unfair advantage when they time elections during periods of positive media coverage or when the opposition is in disarray. There may be other reasons for fixed election date legislation, but they aren't necessary for dealing with these supposed advantages.



Monday, July 30, 2012 - 21:41