Policy meets Identity: Why and How Research on Party Competition Should Engage with Group Appeals

05.06.2023 - 12:00 to 13:30
Location : 
A 5,6 Raum A 231
Type of Event : 
AB B-Kolloquium
Christina Zuber
Lecturer affiliation: 
Universität Konstanz

Early theories of party system formation held that conflicts among social groups in democratizing societies gave rise to political parties that created stable representative patterns defined by both group identity and interests. Modern theories of party competition—be their convictions Downsian or more in line with saliency and issue ownership—have, however, overwhelmingly treated electoral competition as an interaction between parties and voters based on policy issues alone. This article argues that theories of party competition should (re)integrate insights about the importance of group identities from the fields of political behavior, ethnic politics and nationalism studies, as well as theory of representation to better understand the dynamics of real world democratic competition. The article 1) reviews these fields, as well as an emerging more directly party-focused literature to 2) make the case for the need to update empirical measures, behavioral assumptions and theoretical models of party competition. In a third step, we outline the contours of an up-dated model of party competition, one that would shift its micro-foundation away from rational choice theory narrowly conceived and towards social psychology, allowing researchers to incorporate identity—alongside preferences—as a driving force of political behavior. The article thereby shows how research on party competition can make sense of the recent surge of identity politics in electoral campaigns across the world, a surge that provides compelling evidence that elections are not won by appealing to voters’ policy preferences alone, but rather by connecting those preferences to group identities.