Issue ownership and party choice


Brug, Wouter van der (2004) Issue ownership and party choice. Electoral Studies, 23 (2). pp. 209-233. ISSN 0261-3794

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Abstract:This study presents an empirical test of the extent to which the “issue ownership” model explains the electoral decisions of individual voters. The model has been tested mainly by its ability to predict aggregate election results by issue salience (e.g., Budge and Farlie, 1983 and Petrocik, 1996). Applications of the theory for explaining individual voting behavior were restricted to two-party systems. This study makes use of innovative survey questions contained in the Dutch Parliamentary Elections Study 1998, which allow for appropriate tests of the model in the context of multi-party systems. The results show that issue voting — indicated by the direct effect of issues salience on party preferences — occurs only to a very limited extent. However, evidence is found for an indirect effect of issue priorities on party preferences, which is mediated by ideology. By selectively emphasizing issues, a party may alter its ideological position. Since ideological proximity is the main determinant of party choice, changes in ideological positions make a party more attractive to some voters and less attractive to others. In the conclusions it is thus argued that the issue ownership model — which is mainly a model of party behavior — is compatible with ideological voting as conceptualized by Downs (1957) and which provides a good explanation of the behavior of voters.
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