July 2021: New project funded by the DFG!

With GROUPTA, we study citizens' response to group targeting in French and German electoral promises and their fulfillment.

A growing body of research observes that against the backdrop of social changes in the electorate, declining partisanship and growing electoral competition, parties and candidates tend to target more narrowly defined groups than in the past, possibly to the detriment of certain other groups. Trading policies in exchange for the electoral support of particular groups of voters is seen as an important cause of unequal representation. The "policy feedback" literature also suggests that unequal consideration of social groups has consequences for citizens self-perceptions and social identities, as well as for their political attitudes and behavior. Targeting groups perceived as (un)deserving can influence the appeal of electoral programs, but also have profound consequences on citizens’ perception of social groups, their government and the political system.
Conducted by Elisa Deiss-Helbig, Isabelle Guinaudeau, Theres Matthiess and André Bächtiger (2021-2023), this project shifts the focus to those for whom targeted policies, in the sense that its (positive or negative) effects are emphasized explicitly by policymakers with respect to certain groups, are crafted for: the voters. The focus is on electoral promises and their translation into policies. Our main contention is that targeting specific groups in electoral promises has an impact on how voters evaluate and respond to the electoral supply. This evaluation may be based on personal concern or "deservingness perceptions" of other groups. In this project, we explore the following questions: Do voters respond to current electoral promises and the current administration's fulfillment of past promises based on whether they are personally affected or based on the deservingness they attribute to certain affected groups? Does "targeted policy" also influence more fundamental attitudes toward the political system and citizens' voting intentions?
To answer our research questions, we rely on two survey experiments (a simple survey experiment and a paired- conjoint experiment) conducted during the election campaign for the upcoming legislative elections in Germany and for the next presidential election in France. By using the same experimental design in two different political contexts, we aim to maximize the external validity of our observations. By relying on real election promises, we intend to make our experiments as realistic as possible. The project aims to contribute to our understanding of how voters evaluate targeting in politics and how this shapes their evaluation of government performance and more fundamental attitudes towards the political system. More broadly, it intends to provide empirical evidence on the interplay between group politics, voting behavior, policy feedbacks, and symbolic representation.