Prime ministers and the electoral cost of using the confidence vote in legislative bargaining : evidence from France
West European Politics
GB : Routledge
252 - 274 p.
Prime Minister, Confidence, Vote
Do prime ministers pay an electoral penalty for using procedural force to pass laws? Influential theories of parliamentary governance and legislative bargaining assume that the use of the confidence vote procedure – parliamentary governments’ most powerful legislative weapon – entails an electoral cost, but evidence on this important claim has been scarce. This article provides the first estimates of how prime ministers’ public approval responds to their use of the confidence vote. Analysing time series data from France 1979–2008, it is found that prime ministers experience a considerable drop in approval after their use of the confidence vote that is not accounted for by standard economic and political covariates. The effect size is similar to a 1 per cent decline in economic growth. The findings help explain French prime ministers’ selective use of the confidence vote procedure. They also suggest that political costs constrain the bargaining power conferred by the confidence vote. (Publisher's abstract)