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Mass-elite linkages in western Europe and the role of partisan attachments

Dreyer, Philipp (2019) Mass-elite linkages in western Europe and the role of partisan attachments. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Abstract

This dissertation explores the moderating role of voters’ partisan attachments for our understanding of representative democracy. It addresses two broad questions about the dynamic interplay between parties and different voter groups. First, what explains differences in how distinct voter groups update their political attitudes and perceptions of parties’ issue positions? Second, how do parties position themselves to respond effectively to an electorate that consists of distinct voter groups for whom the median voter is not representative? Finding answers to these questions is important because we currently have a limited understanding of how partisan attachments influence voters’ political attitudes and perceptions as well as the strategic behaviour of parties. Using a range of original and existing datasets in the context ofWestern Europe, I show in three articles that partisan attachments induce motivated reasoning, which not only influences how voters update their political attitudes and perceptions but also affects parties’ strategic policy positioning. The first two articles explore how partisan voter groups update their political attitudes and perceptions of parties’ issue positions differently in response to issue salience shocks and the formation of a new coalition government. I first show that issue salience shocks can produce heterogeneous voter responses by inducing partisan motivated reasoning among partisans of the issue-owning party, which subsequently brings these voters ideologically closer to their party. I then show that coalition formation can induce variation in voter responses by inducing partisan motivated reasoning among partisans of a coalition party, which leads these voters to perceive the coalition parties as adopting more disparate issue positions over time. The findings have important implications for parties’ strategic behaviour in election campaigns and throughout the electoral cycle. The third article shows that accounting for different voter groups helps to explain the effect of abstention on the strategic policy positioning of parties. It argues that parties face a trade-off between mobilising their non-moderate partisans and attracting moderate swing voters via policy appeals. Parties face stronger incentives to target their non-moderate partisans if the threat of abstention among that group is high, but as the threat of abstention declines, parties will increasingly target moderate swing voters instead. An important implication is that abstention motivates parties to adopt more ideologically dispersed positions when voters are polarised and the share of non-moderate partisans is higher. The findings imply that abstention can encourage parties to improve representation of their electoral base. Overall, the thesis contributes to debates on the connection between issue ownership theory and spatial models, the influence of partisan attachments, and the importance of the median voter for parties’ strategic policy positioning.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2019 Philipp Dreyer
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
Sets: Departments > European Institute
Supervisor: Hobolt, Sara and Hagemann, Sara
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/4028

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