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Appealing broadly while appearing unified: Resolving an electoral dilemma

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Political parties have an electoral incentive to appear ideologically unified, but also to appeal broadly to different groups of voters with diverse preferences. This paper suggests that parties respond to both incentives through the distribution of candidate issue positions. Members of Parliament (MPs) are responsible for their party's national reputation and thus rarely take positions that diverge from those of their party. Non-incumbent candidates, on the other hand, are mostly visible within their electoral district and thus more likely to diverge from party positions that are unpopular among their constituents. These possibilities are tested with candidate position taking data from nine voting advice applications in Denmark, Finland, Ireland and Switzerland. The results are consistent with the theoretical expectations and have important implications for the way representation works in parliamentary democracies as well as for the broader literature on the topic.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Research
Pages (from-to)131-152
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

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