Tabitha Bonilla Worsley

Department of Political Science

Do Promises Attract or Repel Voters?

Political science literature is filled with theoretic examples of voters who observe campaign promises, and often describes them punishing elected officials when they fail to fulfill those promises by voting for other candidates. Theory tells us that a candidate‚Äôs standing should improve if the promises are plausible and relevant to the public. Existing empirical work tells us that politicians try to keep the promises they make. Yet, no one has expounded on the effect of promise-making on electoral outcomes. I use a conjoint survey experiment to determine if promise-making has a polarizing effects on voters. I hypothesize that voters who espouse a similar view as the candidate would prefer a candidate who promises while voters whose views differ from the candidate would view a candidate who promises more negatively. I also examine the pathways through which voters’ preferences are altered: looking at how perceptions of a candidate’s honesty or expectations of the candidate’s actions change when viewing a candidate that promises and one who does not.