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Winners and losers reconsidered: party support, character valence, and satisfaction with democracy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 May 2019

Debra Leiter*
University of Missouri, Kansas City, Missouri
April K. Clark
Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois
Michael Clark
Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois


Studies of citizens’ satisfaction with democracy have established a connection between satisfaction and how well those citizens’ preferred parties perform in elections. Yet, the question remains whether ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ respond to the same system- and party-level factors when evaluating their political satisfaction. We build on extant literature to consider citizen satisfaction with democracy from the perspective of character valence. Using the Mannheim Eurobarometer trend file and content analysis-based data on parties’ character valence, we find that both winners’ and losers’ satisfaction with the political system is affected by parties’ character valence, but in differing (and somewhat surprising) ways. We find that winners respond to improvements in the character valence of opposition parties, whereas losers demonstrate greater concern with the valence of governing parties.

Research Article
© European Consortium for Political Research 2019 

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An earlier version of this paper was prepared for presentation at the annual meeting of the European Consortium on Political Research, 3–6 September 2014, University of Glasgow, Scotland.


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