The rhyme and reason of rebel support: exploring European voters’ attitudes toward dissident MPs

Political Science Research and Methods


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


Citizens often support politicians who vote against their parties in parliament. They view rebels as offering better representation, appreciate expressive acts, take rebellion as a signal of standing up for constituents, or see rebels as defending their moral convictions. Each explanation has different implications for representation, but they have not yet been tested systematically against one another. We implement survey experiments on nationally representative samples in the UK, Germany, France, and Italy to assess whether voters treat rebellion as a cue for better representation or infer positive character traits implying a valence advantage. Policy congruence does not drive voters’ preference for rebels. However, voters do associate positive traits with rebel MPs, even if they do not feel better represented by them.