Department of Political Science

Moderation and Competence: How a Party's Ideological Position Shapes Its Valence Reputation

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We combine several strands of research from electoral behavior and party politics to suggest that ideological moderation will boost a party's perceived competence. Less radical parties are seen as readier to compromise, more realistic about what can be achieved, and less prone to simplistic solutions. The results of conjoint experiments with party profiles show that while an ideological leaning carries no cost, any appreciably left- or right-wing position eroded a party's perceived competence among a representative sample of around 2,000 British citizens. This effect holds when controlling for respondents’ ideological proximity to the party in question, and it looks to operate through all three of the proposed mechanisms suggested above—especially willingness to compromise. These findings have important implications both for party strategy and for voting research, highlighting a key channel through which ideological moderation yields electoral gains.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Political Science
Number of pages15
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2019

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