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Separating Candidate Valence and Proximity Voting: Determinants of Competitors’ Non-Policy Appeal*

Abstract

Previous scholarship has provided ample evidence that non-spatial considerations can trump voters’ policy preferences in candidate selections. The literature has been less successful, however, in providing a sense of the factors that raise candidates’ non-policy appeal. Faced with the challenging task of separating policy and non-policy aspects of individual vote choices, empirical research has frequently relied on shorthand measures like candidate incumbency. This paper separates the valence component from policy-based candidate selections by explicitly supplying voters with information on the policy agreement between themselves and their district candidates. Relying on the distinction between campaign valence and character valence by Stone and Simas, it is shown that candidate valence is driven by candidate visibility in a party-dominated political system.

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Dominic Nyhuis, Department of Political Science, Goethe University Frankfurt, Theodor-W.-Adorno-Platz 6, 60323 Frankfurt (dominic.nyhuis@soz.uni-frankfurt.de). The author is grateful for feedback on the ideas that are put forth in this paper by Jens Brandenburg, Sean Carey, and Thomas Gschwend. The author is particularly indebted to Martin Elff, Lukas Stötzer, and Steffen Zittlau for invaluable suggestions that have greatly improved the paper. The author also likes to express the gratitude to the curators of the platform http://www.abgeordnetenwatch.de, specifically Martin Reyher and Roman Ebener, for allowing the author to run the additional questionnaire on their site.

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Political Science Research and Methods
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