Spatial Models of Party Competition Applied

Research question/goal: 

An application of spatial models of party competition presupposes the construction of policy spaces which encompass the important policy issues of an election. These are the basis of policy voting by the electorate and of strategic position taking by parties. In addition to policy voting, individual vote functions have to include party valences and long-term commitments of voters to parties. After having estimated such vote functions for several Bundestag elections, our aim is to study equilibrium dynamics of party competition under the impact of mixed electoral systems. For pure electoral systems the folk wisdom is that first past the post induces centripetal party movements, and proportional representation induces centrifugal positioning, especially of low-valence parties. Our research question is how voters respond  to the opportunity to cast two ballots and how parties come to terms with the possibly differing equilibrium dynamics of mixed-member electoral systems.

Current stage: 

We analyse the German mixed-member electoral system by applying a neo-downsian model of party competition. Voters and candidates/parties base their actions on both the policy distance between them and valence advantages some parties/candidates enjoy over their competitors. In 2017, our major research focus was candidate competition in the districts of German national elections. While district candidates in parliamentary systems have little leeway to offer policies deviating from those of their national party, they can stress their valence characteristics such as political competence or local roots in district campaigns. National parties, however, minimize policy deviations of their campaigners. Our analyses show that the larger the policy-independent exogenous valence advantage of a party or a candidate is, the more moderate policies close to the median voter are offered. Furthermore, parties/candidates possessing valence disadvantages are able to gain more votes with more extreme standpoints.

Fact sheet

2012 to 2018
Data Sources: 
German Bundestag election surveys since 1980
Geographic Space: 



Kurella, Anna-Sophie (2017): Issue Voting and Party Competition. The Impact of Cleavage Lines on German Elections between 1980-1994. Cham: Springer. [Contributions to Political Science] more