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Stuck in the middle: Ideology, valence and the electoral failures of centrist parties

Zur, Roi (2021) 'Stuck in the middle: Ideology, valence and the electoral failures of centrist parties.' British Journal of Political Science, 51 (2). 706 - 723. ISSN 0007-1234

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Abstract

In recent years centrist-liberal parties, such as the German Free Democratic Party (FDP) in 2013 and the British Liberal Democrats in 2015 and 2017, suffered enormous electoral defeats. These defeats highlight a prominent puzzle in the study of party competition and voting behavior; the empty center phenomenon. That is, empirical evidence suggests that most parties do not converge to the median voter's position, despite the centripetal force of the voters’ preference distribution. Using survey data from Canada, Finland, Germany and the United Kingdom, this article shows that deterioration of centrist parties’ valence image is followed by a collapse of their vote shares. Using mathematical simulations, this article shows that centrist parties have limited strategic opportunities to regain their support. Differently from other parties, centrist parties cannot alter their policy platforms to compensate for their deteriorated valence image. These results have important implications for political representation and voters–elite linkages.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: centrist parties; left–right; representation; valence; mass–elite linkages; ideology; voting; simulations
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Government, Department of
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 07 Apr 2021 08:40
Last Modified: 07 Apr 2021 08:40
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/30157

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