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Stuck in the middle: Ideology, valence and the electoral failures of centrist parties

  • Roi Zur (a1)

Abstract

In recent years centrist-liberal parties, such as the German Free Democratic Party (FDP) in 2013 and the British Liberal Democrats in 2015 and 2017, suffered enormous electoral defeats. These defeats highlight a prominent puzzle in the study of party competition and voting behavior; the empty center phenomenon. That is, empirical evidence suggests that most parties do not converge to the median voter's position, despite the centripetal force of the voters’ preference distribution. Using survey data from Canada, Finland, Germany and the United Kingdom, this article shows that deterioration of centrist parties’ valence image is followed by a collapse of their vote shares. Using mathematical simulations, this article shows that centrist parties have limited strategic opportunities to regain their support. Differently from other parties, centrist parties cannot alter their policy platforms to compensate for their deteriorated valence image. These results have important implications for political representation and voters–elite linkages.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

*Corresponding author. Email: roizur@ucdavis.edu

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Stuck in the middle: Ideology, valence and the electoral failures of centrist parties

  • Roi Zur (a1)

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