Dog whistles and democratic mandates

Goodin, Robert E. and Saward, Michael (2005). Dog whistles and democratic mandates. Political Quarterly, 76(4) p. 471.



Manipulative mixed messages from candidates to voters affect what governments are entitled to do in office. A party that wins an election gains a 'mandate to rule'. But there is a second type of mandate: a 'policy mandate' to enact specific policy proposals central to the winning party's campaign. Mixed-message politics in general can undermine policy mandates, and the use of 'dog whistle politics' - telling one group of voters one thing, while allowing or encouraging another group to believe another - makes the inferring of policy mandates especially problematic. Referendums provide only a partial remedy to dog whistle politics. Winning a clear policy mandate means forgoing dog whistle politics, despite the short term electoral advantage they may deliver.

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