A promise is a promise, as the saying goes. The expression is used all over the world. Most of us know what a promise is, and when it is fulfilled. But it’s not that simple in the political world.
– The term “election promise” has various meanings depending on who we ask, says Elin Naurin, researcher in the Department of Political Science. In her thesis she studies the parties’ capacity to fulfil what they promise prior to elections and compares it with the voters’ view of those promises.
When political scientists examine the pledges in the parties’ election manifestos, a positive picture emerges of responsible politicians who take their electoral promises seriously. However, the citizen in the street has a completely different picture, maintains Elin Naurin. In her thesis she reveals that most people feel that politicians do not keep what they promise. It is this Pledge Puzzle that she puts at the centre of her research: How widespread is the perception that for the most part parties break their electoral promises? What is a broken electoral promise in the eyes of voters? As the focus is on Swedish voters, she also asks: how Swedish parties fare in international comparisons?
A high ranking in international comparisons
In order to provide answers to these questions, Elin Naurin first undertook a survey of whether the Social Democrats fulfilled their electoral promises in their 1994 and 1998 election manifestos. She then presents both questionnaire studies and long interviews with Swedish voters.
– The electorate uses a broader definition of electoral promises than the researchers. In the eyes of voters, the researchers’ focus on the promises in election manifestos is a narrow one. What is said between elections is also perceived as electoral promises. The same applies to the statements of individual party representatives, says Elin Naurin.
What should have been promised is also taken into account when voters formulate their understanding of electoral promises. Elin Naurin also feels that there is a narrative about politicians who break promises that we find it difficult to disregard.
– For example, the Social Democrats completely or partially fulfilled as many as 90 percent of the electoral promises they gave in their election manifesto during the periods 1994-1998 and 1998-2002., says Elin Naurin. Moreover, this gives Swedish Governments a high ranking in international comparisons.
Title of the thesis: Promising Democracy. Parties, Citizens and Election Promises.
Author of the thesis: Elin Naurin
Name of faculty opponent: Professor Colin Rallings, University of Plymouth
Time and venue for the public defence: Friday 02.10.09 at 10.15, room 10, University Building, Vasaparken.