When voters and parties agree: Valence issues and party competition

Jane Green

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There has been much talk of valence, consensus or competence politics but little theoretical explanation or empirical investigation of how this has arisen. In this article I argue that British political competition has become competence-based because the major parties and the electorate have converged on the dominant left-right dimension of British voting behaviour. As a result, commonly cited core vote explanations for party polarisation have only limited application. The electorate has converged on left-right issues, narrowing the policy space and the available positional strategies of political parties. A different pattern is found for the issue of Europe, and this is interpreted in light of possible causal mechanisms. The article offers a formal model for a rise in valence politics as parties and voters converge, and the implications are discussed for theories of party competition. I argue in favour of competence and salience-based theories of party strategy in place of a reliance on traditional spatial models. © 2007 Political Studies Association.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)629-655
Number of pages26
JournalPolitical Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007


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