Sona Golder, Ph.D.

Pennsylvania State University

Country: United States (Pennsylvania)

Research Interests

Comparative Political Institutions

Representation and Electoral Systems

European Politics

Specific Areas of Interest

Coalition Governments


Journal Articles:

(2017) An Exit, Voice, and Loyalty Model of Politics., British Journal of Political Science

Tags: Comparative Democratization, Formal Theory

Political scientists typically develop different models to examine distinct political phenomena such as lobbying, protests, elections and conflict. These specific models can provide important insights into a particular event, process or outcome of interest. This article takes a different tack. Rather than focus on the specificities of a given political phenomenon, this study constructs a model that captures the key elements common to most political situations. This model represents a reformulation and extension of Albert Hirschman’s famous Exit, Voice and Loyalty framework. To highlight the value that comes from focusing on the commonalities that exist across apparently disparate political phenomena, the article applies the model to several issues in the democratization literature related to modernization theory, the political resource curse, inequality, foreign aid and economic performance.

(2014) Portfolio Allocation and the Vote of No Confidence, British Journal of Political Science

Tags: Comparative Political Institutions, European Politics

There is a contradiction between theory and empirics with respect to portfolio allocation in parliamentary democracies. While the canonical model of legislative bargaining predicts the existence of a ‘formateur bonus’, empirical studies show that portfolios are allocated in a manner that favours smaller parties. This article argues that the difference between the empirical pattern and the theoretical predictions can be explained by the vote of no confidence, which provides an incentive for large formateur parties to overcompensate smaller coalition partners in exchange for their sustained support over time. This argument is tested by exploiting variations in the presence of no confidence votes across national and regional levels in France. As predicted, we find that larger formateur parties receive a greater share of portfolios if the vote of no confidence is absent than if it is present.

(2011) Who ‘Wins’? Determining the Party of the Prime Minister, American Journal of Political Science

Tags: European Politics, Comparative Political Institutions, Research Methods & Research Design

The prime ministership is the preeminent political post in parliamentary democracies. Yet few studies examine PM party choice, perhaps under the assumption that the choice is a simple function of party size. In this article, we argue that key strategic actors and the context in which government negotiations take place can play a critical role in PM party choice. We test our hypotheses using a mixed logit with random coefficients on an original data set comprising PM selection opportunities in 28 European countries. Our methodological approach allows us to incorporate qualitative concerns about heterogeneity and causal complexity into our analysis. Contrary to conventional wisdom, we find that the largest party is often disadvantaged when it comes to PM party choice, that some presidents play an influential role in choosing the PM, and that the value of being the incumbent depends on one’s performance in office and how the previous government ended.

(2010) Bargaining Delays in the Government Formation Process, Comparative Political Studies

Tags: Comparative Political Institutions, European Politics

In parliamentary democracies, the transfer of power from one government to the next is sometimes characterized by long periods of negotiations in which party leaders bargain over the composition and policy objectives of a new cabinet. Although these delays can have substantial political and economic consequences, surprisingly little is known about their determinants. Moreover, the few studies that exist reach contradictory conclusions. In this article, the author examines how factors relating to uncertainty and bargaining complexity influence the duration of the government formation process in 16 West European countries from 1944 to 1998. In line with the article’s theoretical expectations, the author finds that factors increasing uncertainty over the type of cabinet that is acceptable always lead to delays in forming governments but that factors increasing bargaining complexity, such as the number of parties and ideological polarization in the legislature, only do so when there is sufficient uncertainty among political actors. The present analysis helps to resolve the contradictory findings in the literature.

Books Written:

(2006) The Logic of Pre-Electoral Coalition Formation, Ohio State University Press

Tags: Comparative Political Institutions

Why do some parties coordinate their electoral strategies as part of a pre-electoral coalition, while others choose to compete independently at election time? Scholars have long ignored pre-electoral coalitions in favor of focusing on the government coalitions that form after parliamentary elections. Yet electoral coalitions are common, they affect electoral outcomes, and they have important implications for democratic policy-making itself. In this book, I use a combination of methodological approaches (game theoretic, statistical, and historical) to explain why pre-electoral coalitions form in some instances but not in others. The results indicate that pre-electoral coalitions are more likely to form between ideologically compatible parties. They are also more likely to form when the expected coalition size is large (but not too large) and when the potential coalition partners are similar in size. Ideologically polarized party systems and disproportional electoral rules in combination also increase the likelihood of electoral coalition formation. I link the analysis of pre-electoral coalition formation to the larger government coalition literature by showing that pre-electoral agreements increase (a) the likelihood that a party will enter government, (b) the ideological compatibility of governments, and (c) the speed with which governments take office. In addition, pre-electoral coalitions provide an opportunity for combining the best elements of the majoritarian vision of democracy with the best elements of the proportional vision of democracy.

Book Chapters:

(2015) Government Formation and Cabinets, Wiley online

Tags: Comparative Political Institutions

This is an entry in Wiley's Online "Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences: An Interdisciplinary, Searchable, and Linkable Resource".

Media Appearances:

Radio Appearances:

(2012) PRI's "The World"

"The Problem with Coalitions" addresses the difficulties of forming coalition governments.