Zeynep Somer-Topcu, Margit Tavits, Markus Baumann
Does party rhetoric affect voter perceptions of party positions?

Electoral Studies, 2020: 65, Heft June, (article no. 102153)
ISSN: 0261-3794

Do voters listen to parties? Do they pay attention to and understand parties' policy messages? We explore these questions with two studies. First, we assembled the most comprehensive cross-national dataset on media coverage of parties' rhetoric during election campaigns and show that parties’ media messages about their left-right positions significantly affect voter perceptions of these positions. We corroborate the cross-national results with panel data from the UK that allow us to more rigorously identify the party rhetoric effect and to show that it extends beyond the left-right super issue: party messages affect voter perceptions also on specific issues, such as income redistribution and European integration. Taken together, these findings suggest that voters indeed listen to parties and understand their policy messages.