Being a Parliamentary rebel neither wins nor loses you support

Welcome to the latest in my occasional series highlighting interesting findings from academic research. Today – the lack of an electoral impact for an MP if they rebel in Parliamentary votes.

As the research says:

Are there electoral consequences or benefits for legislators who deviate from the party line? We answer this question with data from individual-level vote choice and constituency-level electoral results in the UK for the last two decades. Exploring the variations in voting patterns over time with a panel-regression approach, we find results that are most compatible with the null hypothesis, that is, that dissent by legislators is neither rewarded nor punished in elections. These results call into question the degree to which voters know and/or care about legislative dissent in parliament.

Or as the summary puts it:

There is plenty of evidence that MPs are increasingly willing to break ranks and defy their party managers.

British voters say they prefer MPs who demonstrate independence and who are willing to deviate from the party line. At the same time, they dislike parties that appear divided.

Yet, there is little or no evidence that voters then reward or punish MPs accordingly.

The research, Philip Cowley (a familiar name in rebel research) and Resul Umit, R, “Legislator Dissent Does Not Affect Electoral Outcomes”, British Journal of Political Science, is online here.

You can read the other posts in the Evidence-based campaigning: what the academic research says series here.

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