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

Research question/goal: 

The first phase of this project (2015-2018) focused on examining why voters understand the policy positions of some parties more easily than those of others. What matters for the eventual voter choice is not necessarily what the actual positions of parties are, but what voters think they are. We argued and found that the information environment, which is shaped by party behaviour and actions, significantly influences voters’ perceptions of party policies. Furthermore, we discovered that parties’ campaign priorities are in line with their long-standing issue linkages—an encouraging result regarding the functioning of representative democracy.

The main goal of the second phase of the project (since 2019) has been to study party competition in multi-party systems in the between-election period. Since we are interested mainly in examining the correspondence between policy positions during the campaign and after the election, we focus on the first two years of the legislative term after an election. We study party interaction by analysing how parties communicate their own policies and what they say about the proposals of their competitors. To do so, we rely on press releases issued by the parties themselves in ten European countries and complement these data with media coverage of party positions during the same period in three of these countries (Germany, Spain, and the UK).

The project examines party communication as both a dependent variable and a factor that influences party performance in polls and elections. More specifically, we seek to study (a) under which conditions parties shift their positions compared to those expressed during their pre-electoral campaign and (b) how voters react to such shifts. In addressing these questions, we consider two types of conditioning factors: differences across policy dimensions and government/opposition status.

The main sources of information for our analysis are party media campaigns, party press releases, and results from opinion polls and subnational elections.

Current stage: 

We began the second phase of the project with a kick-off workshop at MZES, which also served as an occasion to introduce a number of new country experts to the project team. The content analysis coding scheme for the media data was revised. Furthermore, new student assistants in ten countries were trained and are now coding, and we started collecting the press releases.

Fact sheet

2015 to 2021
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