Parties Diverge around Electors—but not too much. Policy Responds—but not too fast.

Ian Budge, Hans Keman, Michael McDonald and Paul Pennings

in Organizing Democratic Choice

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780199654932
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741685 | DOI:

Series: Comparative Politics

Parties Diverge around Electors—but not too much. Policy Responds—but not too fast.

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The title of this chapter really says it all with regard to content. It summarizes what is now a well validated model of representative processes at work. Parties-regardless of the kind of electoral system they operate within – vary their policy positions for largely internal, factional and ideological reasons. The resulting variation is contained within ideological limits but is sufficient to generate fluctuations in party votes and changes in government. Both limits and variation inhibit excessive party distancing from the centre of the policy distribution, where most voters and electors find themselves. Voters are there because their positions are determined by those of the parties bracketing them. Electors are there because over time they have defined the party configuration in a way which locates them predominantly at its centre. Since they are thus bracketed by the parties their preferences will necessarily be reflected in public policy over the long term. In the short term however this may not be so owing to a) slippages in the transmission of preferences from electors to voters and parties, and from these to governments: b) the considerable influence of structural and external influences over enacted policy which may pull it away from political targets and intentions. Over the long term these will reassert their influence, but representation may remain imperfect over a considerable period.

Keywords: parties; voters; divergence; electors; bracketing

Chapter.  6053 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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