Are voter decision rules endogenous to parties' policy strategies? A model with applications to elite depolarization in post-Thatcher Britain

Caitlin Milazzo, James Adams, Jane Green

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Abstract

While spatial modelers assume that citizens evaluate parties on the basis of their policy positions, empirical research on American politics suggests that citizens' party attachments often drive their policy preferences, rather than vice versa. Building on previous findings that partisanship is less salient to British citizens than to Americans, we argue that British citizens predominantly update their partisanship to match their policy beliefs. We further argue that because policy salience declines when parties converge, citizens' policy beliefs exert diminishing effects on their party evaluations as parties depolarize on a focal policy dimension-i.e., that voter decision rules are an endogenous function of parties' policy strategies. We find support for these hypotheses via individual-level analyses of British election panel survey data between 1987 and 2001. We also find that the reciprocal policy-partisan effects we identify extend to different subconstituencies of British citizens including the more and less educated and politically engaged. © 2012 Southern Political Science Association.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)262-276
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Politics
Volume74
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012

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