Paul Pennings, "Parties,
Voters and Policy Priorities in the Netherlands, 1971-2002,"
Party Politics, 11 (January, 2005), 29-45.
The relationships between the preferences and priorities of
voters, parties and governments are crucial to the
functioning of parliamentary democracies. Together, these
relationships form a 'chain of delegation' from voters to
parties and from parties to policy-makers (Strøm,
2000). This article seeks to unravel the connection between
the priorities of voters, parties and governments in order
to clarify how the chain of delegation works in the Dutch
context. The article is limited to policy priorities,
because these are vital to the formation of a political
agenda, which is one of the main outcomes of the chain of
delegation. This agenda determines how public resources are
utilized in order to achieve prioritized collective
Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Priorities of Dutch voters (means)
Table 2. Distances in policy priorities of parties and
Figure 1. Left versus right since 1971
Table 3. Policy distances between policy priorities of
parties and governments
First Paragraph in
The low degree of responsiveness of parties indicates
that the linkage between voters and parties is the weakest
one in the chain of delegation. The linkage between the
priorities of parties and governments is much stronger.
There should be some connection between the popular and the
political agendas in order to enable democratic
decision-making, but if the two agendas would merge, the
policy agenda of governments would become highly unstable.
In the Dutch context the mandate theory does not apply in
the same manner as in Britain because Dutch parties are not
in a position to make a direct translation of voter
priorities or their own priorities into policy-making since
they have to compromise.