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Not so responsive after all: European parties do not respond to public opinion shifts across multiple issue dimensions

O’Grady, T; Abou-Chadi, T; (2019) Not so responsive after all: European parties do not respond to public opinion shifts across multiple issue dimensions. Research & Politics , 6 (4) 10.1177/2053168019891380. Green open access

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Abstract

Many studies have found that European parties change their policy positions in response to changes in public opinion. This is both theoretically and normatively appealing, suggesting that European party politics operates in a way that is consistent with spatial models. Nonetheless, virtually all previous studies are based on a single, uni-dimensional measure of public opinion: left–right self-placement from the Eurobarometer surveys. This measure has a number of flaws, including the fact that political conflict in Europe now occurs across multiple issue dimensions beyond the classic divide on state involvement in the economy. We used new measures of Europeans’ ideological positions across four different issue dimensions and 26 countries from 1981–2016, together with data on parties’ policy positions from their manifestos, to re-evaluate findings on responsiveness. Across many different model specifications, samples and outcome measures, we found virtually no evidence that European political parties respond to public opinion on any issue dimension. Our findings suggest that scholars may require better measures of party positions, more nuanced theories of responsiveness (for example to sub-groups, or across longer time horizons), or may need to refocus their attention towards responsiveness via policy outcomes rather than parties’ policy commitments.

Type: Article
Title: Not so responsive after all: European parties do not respond to public opinion shifts across multiple issue dimensions
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/2053168019891380
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1177/2053168019891380
Language: English
Additional information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).
Keywords: Responsiveness, political parties, Europe
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Political Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10087787
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