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Seeking the Personal Vote: How Legislators Exploit the Party Line

The goal of the project is to produce new findings on how legislators reconcile and justify the pressures resulting from their own consciences, the positions of their party leadership, and constituency opinion. The research project uses an experimental approach to answer this question.

We conducted a large-scale field experiment on members of parliament (MPs) in the UK (who sit in the House of Commons), to test how they communicate with their constituents when asked to explain their policy positions on nine issues. These issues include from a second Brexit referendum, immigration, and tuition fees. We hypothesised that MPs would typically take credit for policy positions they have that are congruent with the views of a constituent, even if they are following party policy, but that they would ‘hide behind the party’ – i.e., frame their responses more in terms of following the party rather than emphasising it as their personal view -- when their views were not congruent with those of a constituent.

University Durham participants:

  • Gidon Cohen,
  • Patrick M Kuhn,
  • Kyriaki Nanou, (principal investigator)
  • Neil Visalvanich,
  • Nick Vivyan

The project also involved:

  • London School of Economics, Florian Foos
  • University of Northumbria, Sarah Cohen
  • University of Zurich, Daniel Bischof.

The project is supported by a British Academy Small Research Grant award.