Zeynep Somer-Topcu, Margit Tavits
Message Distortion as a Campaign Strategy: Does Rival PartyDistortion of Focal Party Position Affect Voters?

European Politics Online Workshop, (virtual), 28. Juli 2020

Scholars are increasinglyinterestedin knowing whether voters understandparty positions. However, prior work has focused on parties’ own policy messages only, ignoring the fact that,in real life, parties are engaged in constant exchange with their rivals about their policy positions. This creates possibilities for rival parties to misconstrue each other’s policy messages. We argue that such message distortion by rival parties undermines voters’ ability to place the focal partycorrectly. Using observational and experimental data, we show support for this expectation. We also demonstratethatmessage distortion by rivals affects all voters, regardless of whether they support the rival party, the focal party,or neither.These findings have important implications for party strategies and research on comparative party politics.