FRAL - Appel Franco-allemand en sciences humaines et sociales

Unequal mandate responsiveness? How electoral promises and their realizations target groups in France and Germany – UNEQUALMAND

Submission summary

Political equality is a core requirement and a key principle of democracy. However, research casts serious doubt on the realization of this ideal and points to “unequal responsiveness”. This project examines political (in-)equality in France and Germany through the lens of group representation, with a focus on mandates and their realization in the form of policies. We look at the supply and the demand-side of political competition. How do pledges and fulfilled policy appeal to groups with different characteristics? How and under what conditions do citizens respond to group targeting in electoral manifestos (prospective) and pledge fulfillment (retrospective)?
One main hypothesis of this project is that political actors not only disproportionately appeal to certain groups when making pledges, but also that pledge fulfillment is not constant and varies depending on the characteristics of the social groups, i.e. their mobilization resources and social images. UNEQUALMAND further investigates how group targeting affects citizens’ perceptions and assessment of pledges, with a focus on group-based heuristics, and the moderating role of the ambiguity of the pledge (broadness of the targeted group and preciseness of promised policy).
We draw on a mixed-method research design combining hypothesis-testing with more inductive approaches that are relevant to an emerging research agenda. For studying how political actors target groups, we gather macro-level quantitative data on promises and their realization, which we use, first, to generate a typology on groups and their characteristics, and then to test our hypotheses. The data on pledges is used to design surveys and vignette experiments on voters’ reactions to group-targeting in pledge making and pledge fulfillment. Qualitative process-tracing of cases of (non-)fulfilled pledges targeted at specific groups shed light on the mechanisms linking groups, pledges and fulfillment, and allow for further hypotheses to be inductively generated.
The country selection represents a diverse cases design: France and Germany are comparable in many respects, but their institutions and party systems also differ crucially. This allows maximization of the external validity of the findings, and provides variance for the explorative, inductive part of the project.
By tracing (in)equal representation at different stages of the policymaking process (pledge making and realization), UNEQUALMAND makes an important contribution not only to the literature on unequal responsiveness, but also to previous research on public policy, party competition and electoral pledges. More broadly, this project has major potential implications for the understanding of (un)equal representation in representative democracy – from the perspective of political actors and voters.

Project coordinator


The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


Institut für Sozialwissenschaften - Abteilung SOWI I - Universität Stuttgart
MZES Mannheimer Zentrum für Europäische Sozialforschung

Help of the ANR 717,951 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: May 2022 - 36 Months

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