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Bridging Spatial and Saliency Theory: Party Size and Issue Selection in Campaigns

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 March 2019

Chitralekha Basu*
University of Barcelona, School of Economics, Barcelona, 08007Spain
*Corresponding author. Email:


I propose a unified explanation for parties' joint policy and emphasis decisions which bridges saliency theory and spatial analyses of party campaigns. Party platforms are anchored by the policy preferences of activists, core supporters and target voters, leading parties to disproportionately emphasize issues where their policies are popular with all key constituencies. However, which voters a party targets relates to its historical electoral performance (“party size”). Traditionally successful (“major”) parties emphasize issues where the policies preferred by activists and core supporters are generally popular, but smaller (“minor”) parties emphasize issues where their preferred policies may be unpopular but are distinctive. Using recent European data and various empirical strategies, I show that this account has significant explanatory power beyond existing party typologies and theories of issue selection.

Original Articles
Copyright © The European Political Science Association 2019

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