Legislators' accountability for issue stances: evidence from Australia's Marriage Law Postal Survey

Christopher Hanretty, Jill Sheppard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For legislators to be held accountable for their stances voters need to sanction unpopular positions. However, because of strong party discipline it is difficult to identify the effects of individual MPs’ stances rather than the stance of their party, because MPs almost always have the same stance as their party. Researchers must therefore study issues which cut across parties or where parties allowed representatives to follow their conscience. Same-sex marriage is one such issue. We use data from the 2017 marriage law survey and subsequent 2019 federal election results to test whether MPs whose referendum positions were out-of-step with their district faced electoral sanction. We find that a standard deviation increase in congruence at the level of the polling place catchment area yields a statistically and substantively insignificant change in vote share of -0.1 percentage points. The results question the degree to which electors control their representatives beyond voting for a party label.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAustralian Journal of Political Science
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 26 Jun 2024

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