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Clarity of responsibility: How government cohesion conditions performance voting


Address for correspondence: Sara Hobolt, European Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, UK. E-mail:


Recent literature has shown that the long established link between economic performance and electoral outcomes is conditioned by a country's institutions and government, what is often termed ‘clarity of responsibility’. In this article two distinct dimensions of the clarity of the political context are identified: institutional and government clarity. The first captures the formal dispersion of government power, both horizontally and vertically. The second captures the cohesion of the incumbent government. Analysing survey data from 27 European countries, it is shown that voters' ability to hold governments to account, for both the economy and management of public services, is primarily influenced by the extent to which there is an identifiable and cohesive incumbent, whereas formal institutional rules have no direct impact on performance voting.