Although executives in many democracies have constitutional powers to circumvent the majoritarian legislative process to make policy, political scientists know relatively little about whether and when ordinary people hold executives accountable for the process they use. To study this issue beyond the American presidency, we conduct a series of large survey experiments in France, where the institution of the confidence procedure puts the government in a strong position relative to parliament. Our experiments highlight that public evaluations of the executive reflect a fundamental trade-off between policy and process. If they face significant opposition in the legislative process, executives either have to accept policy failure or risk punishment for the use of procedural force. People dislike both results, and the average popularity gain of using the confidence procedure over not delivering the policy is modest. Moreover, in some contexts, executives are strictly better off not legislating rather than applying force.
American Journal of Political Science, 2021, forthcoming