Markus Baumann, Marc Debus, Martin Gross
Strategic issue emphasis in parties’ election campaign statements

Party Politics, 2021: 27, issue 3, pp. 515-527
ISSN: 1354-0688 (print), 1460-3683 (online)

Parties should develop a consistent issue profile during an electoral campaign. Yet, manifestos, which form the baseline for a party’s programmatic goals in the upcoming legislative period, are usually published months before Election Day. We argue that parties must emphasize policy issues that are of key relevance to their likely voters in the last weeks of the election campaign, in which an increasing share of citizens make up their minds in terms of which party they will choose. To test this notion empirically, we draw on a novel data set that covers information on party representatives’ statements made during the final weeks of an election campaign in nine European countries. Focusing on the campaign messages of social democratic and socialist parties, we find that these parties indeed intensify their emphasis of unemployment policy, which is a salient issue for their core voter clienteles, particularly in times of economic hardship.