Spatial Models of Party Competition Applied

Research question/goal: 

An application of spatial models of party competition presupposes the construction of policy spaces which encompass the important policy issues of an election. These are the basis of policy voting by the electorate and of strategic position taking by parties. In addition to policy voting, individual vote functions have to include party valences and long-term commitments of voters to parties. After having estimated such vote functions for several Bundestag elections, our aim is to study equilibrium dynamics of party competition under the impact of mixed electoral systems. For pure electoral systems the folk wisdom is that first past the post induces centripetal party movements, and proportional representation induces centrifugal positioning, especially of low-valence parties. Our research question is how voters respond  to the opportunity to cast two ballots and how parties come to terms with the possibly differing equilibrium dynamics of mixed-member electoral systems.

Current stage: 

The Downsian theory of party competition is the starting point for our inquiry into the voting behaviour and party competition in elections to the German Bundestag. Studying the German mixed-member electoral system is a challenge because we have to consider both candidate competition in local constituencies under the conditions of a plurality electoral system and competition of parties in the national arena under the conditions of a proportional electoral system. In the first phase of the project, we analysed the two arenas separately. We now focus on different reactions of the two electoral components to the electoral fortunes of parties, in addition to mutual influences. It turns out that winning constituencies is more dependent on national public opinion trends than winning more or less proportional party list seats is.

Fact sheet

2012 to 2020
Data Sources: 
German Bundestag election surveys since 1980
Geographic Space: 



Kurella, Anna-Sophie (2017): Issue Voting and Party Competition. The Impact of Cleavage Lines on German Elections between 1980-1994. Cham: Springer. [Contributions to Political Science] more