Holding parties responsible at election time: Multi-level, multi-party government and electoral accountability

John Garry*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


This paper highlights the crucial role played by party-specific responsibility attributions in performance-based voting. Three models of electoral accountability, which make distinct assumptions regarding citizens' ability to attribute responsibility to distinct governing parties, are tested in the challenging Northern Ireland context - an exemplar case of multi-level multi-party government in which expectations of performance based voting are low. The paper demonstrates the operation of party-attribution based electoral accountability, using data from the 2011 Northern Ireland Assembly Election Study. However, the findings are asymmetric: accountability operates in the Protestant/unionist bloc but not in the Catholic/nationalist bloc. This asymmetry may be explained by the absence of clear ethno-national ideological distinctions between the unionist parties (hence providing political space for performance based accountability to operate) but the continued relevance in the nationalist bloc of ethno-national difference (which limits the scope for performance politics). The implications of the findings for our understanding of the role of party-specific responsibility attribution in performance based models of voting, and for our evaluation of the quality of democracy in post-conflict consociational polities, are discussed. 

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-88
Number of pages11
JournalElectoral Studies
Early online date27 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014


  • Attribution of responsibility to parties
  • Coalition government
  • Consociational power sharing
  • Electoral accountability
  • Multi-level government
  • Northern Ireland

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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