The political communication of mandate elections

Michal Shamir, Jacob Shamir, Tamir Sheafer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Elections are a prime topic of research for political scientists and political communication scholars, with most studies focusing on electoral behavior and election campaigns. Our interest lies in the construction of meaning of elections, and in particular electoral mandates - defined as policy directives sent from electorates to their elected leaders. Mandates emanate from the electorate, but assignment of meaning to elections is a typical political communication process, and this is the focus of our study. Here we propose a model with several necessary conditions for mandate election interpretations. Our empirical case study is Israel between 1992 and 2003, a period characterized by numerous turnabouts in government and policy, landslide election results, and significant public opinion shifts, when mandate elections could be expected. Making use of a rich set of data on the five elections during this period, we explore the necessary conditions for mandate election interpretations and actual post-election interpretations. We find that in no election were all conditions fulfilled and none were defined as a mandate election. Our results reiterate that mandate elections are hard to pin down and, above all, rare. The literature on mandates has focused on the difficulty of such a construal of the electorate and of the achievement of the structural conditions of mandates in multiparty systems. We focus on the political communication characteristics of modern democracies as a major factor in this process and discuss the implications of our study for democratic politics and the legitimacy of governments in their enactment of bold policy moves.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-66
Number of pages20
JournalPolitical Communication
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Election interpretation
  • Israeli elections
  • Israeli politics
  • Mandate elections
  • Media coverage of elections


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