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Voters often face a complex information environment with many options when they vote in elections. Research on democratic representation has traditionally been skeptical about voters’ ability to navigate this complexity. However, voting advice applications (VAAs) offer voters a shortcut to compare their own preferences across numerous issues with those of a large number of political candidates. As VAAs become more prevalent, it is critical to understand whether and how voters use them when they vote. We analyze how VAA users process and use VAA information about their district candidates with original survey data from the 2019 Danish parliamentary election in collaboration with the administrators of one of the most widely used Danish VAAs. The results demonstrate that VAAs have substantively large effects on their users’ choices between parties and between candidates within parties.
Coalition governance divides policy-making influence across multiple parties, making it challenging for voters to accurately attribute responsibility for outcomes. We argue that many voters overcome this challenge by inferring parties’ policy-making influence using a simple heuristic model that integrates a number of readily available and cheaply obtained informational cues about parties (e.g., their roles in government and legislative seat shares)—while ignoring other cues that, while predictive of real-world influence, are not suitable for heuristic inference (e.g., median party status and bargaining power). Using original data from seven surveys in five countries, we show that voters’ attributions of parties’ policy-making influence are consistent with our proposed inferential strategy. Our findings suggest that while voters certainly have blind spots that cause them to misattribute policy responsibility in some situations, their attributions are generally sensible and consistent with the academic research on multiparty policy making.