Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck, Robert Rohrschneider
Inept: Voter perceptions of party incompetence in German Federal Elections

Party Politics, 2020: 26, issue 4, pp. 390-401
ISSN: 1354-0688 (print), 1460-3683 (online)

In recent years, interest has surged in issue voting based on competence attributions to parties. To vote on policy competence, citizens need to attribute to at least one party the capacity to solve the problems they deem important. The article shows that this condition is often unmet, because voters see no party as competent. Using data collected at the 2009 and 2013 German Federal Elections, it demonstrates that beliefs about parties’ ineptness on pressing issues originate from personal and contextual factors. Their most important source is a spillover effect from general disaffection about parties. But which issues are high on the public’s agenda also makes a difference. Voters are less likely to see parties as competent if the problems on their minds concern polity rather than policy issues, and if they concern issues not owned by a party. Election campaigns, on the other hand, improve attributions of issue competence.