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After defeat: how governing parties respond to electoral loss

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 November 2021

Yotam Margalit*
Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
Tara Slough
New York University, New York, USA
Michael M. Ting
Columbia University, New York, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:


How do governing parties respond in terms of ideological positioning when voted out of office? We study both theoretically and empirically the factors that shape parties’ responses following a loss. Studying national elections in advanced industrialized democracies over the past 70 years, we show that parties tend to counter their pre-election shifts, and do so particularly strongly following defeat. The extent of these ideological shifts is more limited in parties with a larger selectorate voting on the party leadership. Moreover, we find that subsequent to loss, parties are less likely to run on a centrist platform. Notably, shifting away from the center is associated with a higher probability of returning to power. We then introduce a dynamic model of party leadership selection and platform positioning. The model produces patterns of ideological positions over time that are consistent with our empirical findings.

Original Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the European Political Science Association

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