How party characteristics drive voters' evaluation criteria
GB : Butterworths Scientific Publications
11 - 20 p.
European Election, Vote
Spatial models of issue voting generally assume that citizens have a single “vote function”. A given voter is expected to evaluate all parties using the same issue criteria. The impact of issues can vary between citizens and contexts, but is normally considered to be constant across parties. This paper reassesses this central assumption, by suggesting that party characteristics influence the salience of issue considerations in voters' evaluations. Voters should rely more strongly on issues which are frequently associated with a given party and for which its issue stances are better known. Our analysis of the 2014 European elections supports these hypotheses by showing that the impact of voter-party issue distances on party evaluations is systematically related to the clarity and extremism of parties' issue positions, as well as to their size and governmental status. These findings imply an important modification of standard proximity models of electoral competition and party preferences.