Issue Evolution in Multiparty Systems

Research question/goal: 

Issue evolution has been studied extensively for the US plurality system. For proportional systems, however, the game of political competition is much more complex. We still know little about how issue evolution works in multiparty systems, and in what aspects it differs from issue evolution in plurality systems. The project will address this gap by studying whether the emergence of immigration as a salient policy issue is the result of a tactical manoeuvre by radical right parties. Connecting to the literature on issue evolution it will investigate theoretically and empirically when and why new issues emerge and become sufficiently salient to restructure the policy space. The contribution of the project is twofold, by first providing a theory of political competition that considers position taking and issue emphasizing as party strategies. Second, it will generate empirical insights, by testing observable implications of the theory.

Current stage: 

We are currently analysing the patterns of issue salience in European party systems. To do so, we draw on various data sources to estimate voter preferences and party positions on economic, environmental, and immigration issues, which we prepared in 2022. We wrote two paper manuscripts during 2023, which address the relationship between electoral salience, the success of right-wing and green parties, and the multidimensional configuration of party competition. We also developed a formal model of party competition that includes salience in the strategic considerations of political parties. We analyze the model in a manuscript that is currently under review and apply it to empirical data in a working paper that will be submitted in 2024.

Fact sheet

2020 to 2024
Data Sources: 
National election surveys
Geographic Space: 
Western Europe