Ingrid Mauerer, Paul W. Thurner, Marc Debus
Under Which Conditions Do Parties Attract Voters’ Reactions to Issues? Party-Varying Issue Voting in German Elections 1987–2009

West European Politics, 2015: 38, issue 6, pp. 1251-1273
ISSN: 0140-2382 (print); 1743-9655 (online)

Are voters’ choices influenced by parties’ position-taking and communication efforts on issues during a campaign? And if so, do voters’ reactions to issues differ across parties? This article outlines a research design for the statistical identification of party-varying issue reactions within the established paradigm of the Spatial Theory of Voting. Using a special feature of conditional logit and probit models – i.e. the estimation of alternative-specific coefficients instead of fixed ‘generic’ issue distance effects – it is possible to detect asymmetrically attached issue saliencies at the level of the voters, and hence at the demand-side of politics. This strategy opens a new way to systematically combine insights obtained by saliency approaches with the Spatial Theory of Voting. An application to the German parliamentary elections from 1987 to 2009 demonstrates that it is predominantly parties taking polar positions – and, more specifically, niche parties taking polar positions – that induce such asymmetric issue voting.