Chapter 12: Competing for votes
This chapter surveys spatial models of elections, including multidimensional as well as one-dimensional models, and multi-party as well as two-party models. After noting that these models imply considerable degrees of convergence in parties’ policy positions – a pattern that clashes with many empirical observations – I explore two further extensions involving both parties’ and voters’ motivations: namely, that parties do not merely maximize their support but, like voters, have policy preferences that affect their electoral strategies; and that voters, in addition to their policy concerns, weigh parties’ images along universally valued character-based dimensions of evaluation such as competence, integrity and leadership ability, that is, by valence issues. As outlined in Chapters 10 and 13, the spatial model of party competition associated with the research of Harold Hotelling and Anthony Downs posits that the policy debates that preoccupy voters can be represented as options along a one-dimensional continuum, and that the policies that parties present and voters’ policy views can both be represented by positions along this continuum. In national elections there may be multiple dimensions representing different general ideological dimensions of policy debate, such as those referred to as ‘liberal’ versus ‘conservative’ (or left-versus right-wing), that divide political parties (and voters), and which involve disagreements over issues such as income redistribution, taxes and government intervention in the economy.
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