British Politics

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 29–50 | Cite as

The politics and management of public expectations: Gaps, vacuums, clouding and the 2012 mayoral referenda

  • Katharine Dommett
  • Matthew FlindersEmail author
Original Article


Democratic politics is forged upon the creation and management of a number of complex social relationships that are mediated through the creation of a set of expectations about the respective obligations and responsibilities of each actor. However, we actually know very little about how the public’s expectations of political processes, political institutions and politicians can be managed. The danger, as recent research has started to reveal, is that the public’s expectations can be overinflated because of the pressures of political competition to the extent that subsequent failure is almost inevitable. This article departs from the conventional approach to this topic, with its emphasis on the creation of ‘expectation gaps’, and instead develops a more original and distinctive focus on ‘expectation vacuums’ and ‘expectation clouding’. As such, the central argument of this article is that the May 2012 rejection of elected mayors in the vast majority of cities reflected the existence of an ‘expectation vacuum’ and ‘expectation clouding’. This interpretation raises fresh questions about (inter alia) the politics of public expectations, the tools of contemporary statecraft and the future of local governance.


public expectations expectation vacuums expectation clouding expectation gaps mayoral referendum governance 


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PoliticsUniversity of SheffieldUK

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