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A change of heart? Analysing stability and change in European party positions


Koedam, Jelle (2022). A change of heart? Analysing stability and change in European party positions. West European Politics, 45(4):693-715.

Abstract

Political parties are often assumed to be adaptive, strategic organisations that continuously alter their policy positions to maximise electoral support. However, ideological continuity is an integral part of democratic representation as well. How do parties balance these seemingly conflicting roles? This study combines insights from spatial models of elections and cleavage theory to explain stability and change in European party positions. Embracing the multidimensionality of the policy space, I argue that a party’s reputation and durable party-voter linkages constrain positional change on its more salient, primary dimension. Yet, by remaining ideologically true to its supporters’ key concerns, a party can strategically shift on secondary issues outside of its core agenda. Cross-sectional time series analysis of party positions (1999–2019) across fourteen Western European countries confirms this prediction, especially for small to medium-sized and opposition parties. This finding has important implications for our understanding of party strategy and democratic representation.

Abstract

Political parties are often assumed to be adaptive, strategic organisations that continuously alter their policy positions to maximise electoral support. However, ideological continuity is an integral part of democratic representation as well. How do parties balance these seemingly conflicting roles? This study combines insights from spatial models of elections and cleavage theory to explain stability and change in European party positions. Embracing the multidimensionality of the policy space, I argue that a party’s reputation and durable party-voter linkages constrain positional change on its more salient, primary dimension. Yet, by remaining ideologically true to its supporters’ key concerns, a party can strategically shift on secondary issues outside of its core agenda. Cross-sectional time series analysis of party positions (1999–2019) across fourteen Western European countries confirms this prediction, especially for small to medium-sized and opposition parties. This finding has important implications for our understanding of party strategy and democratic representation.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Political Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:320 Political science
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Political Science and International Relations
Uncontrolled Keywords:political science and international relation party competition, multidimensionality, salience, spatial models, cleavage theory
Language:English
Date:7 June 2022
Deposited On:06 Dec 2021 14:41
Last Modified:27 Mar 2024 02:58
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:0140-2382
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/01402382.2021.1915659
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)