Where Is My Party? Determinants of Voter Agreement about the Ideological Positions of Political Parties

Research question/goal: 

This project explores why voters are better able to understand the policy positions of some parties than others. Answering this question is crucial for understanding the functioning of representative democracies. Political parties act as mediators between public preferences and policy outcomes by offering voters a choice of policy positions. For the eventual voter choice, however, what matters is not necessarily what the actual positions of parties are but what voters think they are. Since perceptions determine voter actions, disagreement about party positions can have significant negative consequences to the quality of representation. Addressing this question is all the more urgent because this topic has received little scholarly attention, and what attention has been paid to it has focused mainly on how individual differences influence perceptions. In this project, we argue that information environment, which is shaped by party behaviour and actions, significantly influences voters’ perceptions of party policies. Thus, the variance in the level of perceptual agreement of party policy offerings depends on the extent to which party-provided messages about their offerings are clear, consistent and available. The main sources of information for our analysis are election surveys, party manifestos, expert surveys of party policies, party media campaigns, and data about grassroots organizations. The results of the proposed project will have direct implications for better understanding the functioning of representative democracy. They can shed light on (1) why there sometimes are discrepancies between voter preferences and election outcomes, (2) how party strategies on different arenas can have adverse consequences to the quality of representation, and (3) whether, when and how voters are capable of making reasoned choices over alternative parties and candidates.

Current stage: 

After having finished coding of the media reports in the ten countries under study, we have continued to present papers at national and international conferences as well as at a workshop at the MZES. Several papers are under review at national and international journals or have already been published. Currently, we are preparing a proposal for follow-up funding.

Fact sheet

Funding: 
DFG
Duration: 
2015 to 2018
Status: 
ongoing
Data Sources: 
Election survey data, media analysis, online expert survey, content analysis of political texts
Geographic Space: 
Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, UK

Publications