Thomas Däubler
What the UK General Elections of 2005/10 Tell Us about the Demand for Manifestos (and the Other Way Round)

Parliamentary Affairs, 2015: 68, Heft 2, S. 401-422
ISSN: 0031-2290 (print); 1460-2482 (online)

Conventional wisdom and rational choice theory agree: few citizens read election manifestos. The empirical observations that people do search for manifestos online and that UK parties do find buyers when selling their manifestos, therefore pose a puzzle. From studying these phenomena in the context of the 2005 and 2010 General Elections, we can learn that the standard view needs to be qualified and can gain additional insights into those elections. The article suggests two explanations of manifesto acquisition: highly-interested citizens may obtain the documents of several parties, or strong partisan supporters may secure themselves the manifesto of ‘their’ party, and both mechanisms may be reinforced by the competitiveness of constituency races. Analyses of original behavioural data on manifesto sales and internet search activity show that there is indeed interesting empirical variation in the demand for election manifestos across space and time. Results from Bayesian ecological inference models of the sales data slightly favour the partisan explanation.