Electoral Performance of Opposition Parties

An assumption in legislative studies is that parties and politicians act strategically in the legislature with an eye to their behavior’s effect on their fortunes in the next elections. Relatedly, some have linked the contemporary electoral struggles of mainstream parties across established democracies, and the rise of populism, to the existence or increase of policy consensus between the main opposition and the government parties. However, no one has yet tested whether legislative voting, where agreement and conflict between parliamentary groups are most tangible and visible, has a direct effect on electoral outcomes. This paper addresses the question whether, besides government performance and party campaigns, opposition parties can influence electoral outcomes using strategic legislative voting. We leverage a broad legislative voting dataset from 15 democracies coupled with a detailed account of the opposition’s opportunity structure in each country, to establish to what extent the legislative behavior of opposition parties affects election outcomes. Thereby, the paper tests whether one of the crucial assumptions of political science, namely the connection between parliamentary behavior and electoral considerations, is valid also foropposition parties.