Communicating the Rift: Voter Perceptions of Intra-Party Dissent in Parliaments

Journal of Politics


Dominik Duell, Sven-Oliver Proksch, Jonathan Slapin, Christopher Wratil


MPs who vote against their party can improve their public standing. But how do MPs explain and frame their rebellious behavior to maximize their appeal? And what can party leaders do to mitigate the damage done by intra-party dissent? Using a vignette survey experiment fielded in four European democracies, we study how statements that MPs and party leaders make about rebellion impact voter evaluations of MPs and leaders. We find that MPs benefit from explaining rebellion in terms of their responsiveness to voters, whereas strategies that highlight the importance of the MP’s own personal convictions are only effective with respondents who share the rebel’s opinion. In turn, party leaders fare best if they welcome an MP’s rebellious behaviour irrespective of how that MP explains their vote. MP explanations that focus on the substance of a vote and critical responses from party leaders garner substantially less public support.