AMERICAN & COMPARATIVE POLITICAL BEHAVIOR WORKSHOP
Abstract: Comparative scholars are increasingly interested in knowing whether voters understand party positions. However, prior work has focused on parties’ own policy messages only, ignoring the fact that, in real life, parties are engaged in constant exchange with their rivals about their policy positions. This creates possibilities for rival parties to misconstrue each other’s policy messages. Following the Bayesian updating model, we argue that voters update their perceptions of party positions based on how parties present themselves and how rivals present the party’s message. Using observational and experimental data, we show support for this expectation. We also demonstrate that message distortion by rivals affects all voters, regardless of whether they support the rival party, the focal party, or neither, a finding with important implications for the partisan motivated reasoning literature.
Zeynep Somer-Topcu is an associate professor with tenure in the Department of Government at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research and teaching interests include comparative party politics, voter behavior and perceptions, election results, and representation. Her main focus is on Western Europe, though her research often extends to other advanced industrial democracies. Her work has appeared in the American Journal of Political Science, British Journal of Political Science, Comparative Politics, Comparative Political Studies, European Journal of Political Research, Journal of Politics, and Party Politics. She is currently working on a series of projects examining how parties’ position-taking strategies and particularly how their election campaign strategies affect voters’ perceptions of party policies.
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The series is sponsored by the ISPS Center for the Study of American Politics and The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale with support from the Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Fund.