Elff, Martin. 2021. “Valence or Position? Both! A Unified Conception of Party Competition and Its Implication for the Model-Based Reconstruction of Parties’ Political Profiles from Their Manifestos”.


There are two distinct conceptions about how parties use political topics to appeal to voters. According to the first conception political topics that parties refer to in their manifestos are essentially controversial. In one variant of this conception parties make either positive or negative references to these topics and their respective position is expressed by the balance of positive and negative positions. In a different variant of the conception the controversial nature of topics becomes manifest by parties’ divergent selective emphasis of them. In the second conception parties avoid taking stances on controversial topics. Instead parties mostly refer to non-controversial political aims or ”valence issues” and selectively emphasize those of which they have gained ”issue ownership”. In the paper I argue that neither of these conceptions is exclusively valid and propose a synthesizing conception. I construct a model that formalizes this conceptual synthesis and develop a method of reconstructing parties’ political profiles based on this model from manifesto data. This model will be implemented in open source software and applied to data from the Manifesto Project.

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