Graduate Student Forum

Electoral Cooperation in Japanese Elections: The Role of Individual Legislator’s Policy Preferences

Tuesday, 13 June 2023 | 9:00 - 9:45 (JST)
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  • Etienne Gagnon Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies, The University of Tokyo
  • Kenneth Mori McElwain Professor, Institute of Social Science, The University of Tokyo

How do Individual Candidate Policy Preferences affect the formation of electoral alliances? While it is well known that parties who share similar ideologies are more likely to form electoral coalitions, we know little about how individual policy maker’s policy preferences can affect electoral cooperation. I analyze an electoral alliance formed during the 2021 Japanese lower house election. Using an elite survey of Japanese election candidates, I find that political parties prefer to support other party’s candidates that are proximate to them ideologically. I then use a survey experiment to see how voters react to a “compromise candidate”, a candidate of a party close to their alliance partner, compared to a more cynical counterfactual where parties support candidates they disagree with to maximize their seat count. I find that parties consider candidates’ policy preferences when choosing whether to support them or not as part of an alliance. However, voters do not exhibit a marked preference for compromise candidates. The implication is important. While political parties care about candidate ideology when supporting other parties’ candidates, it is unlikely to be motivated by electoral considerations but rather by the potential to obtain more influence over the post-election policy agenda.


Etienne Gagnon is a Master’s student at the Interdisciplinary initiative in Information science. He broadly studies conflictual dynamics within advanced democracies of East-Asia, with a focus on Japanese politics. His research explores topics such as center-periphery competition, political harassment and violent political protests.