Kenneth Janda, Robert Harmel,
Christine Edens and Patricia Goff, "Changes in Party
Identity: Evidence from Party Manifestos," Party
Politics , 1 (April, 1995), 171-196.
We define the identity of a political party as the image
that citizens have in mind when they think about that party.
Political parties develop their identities through the
different faces they present to the public while in and out
of government. A party's human face is shaped by the
characteristics of its leaders and supporters. During the
1980s, for example, the British Conservative Party was
personified by Margaret Thatcher, while Labour was seen as
closely linked to trade union leaders. Occasionally, the
public reacts to a party's organizational face: one party
can come across as centralized and highly disciplined while
another is seen as disorganized or even fragmented. Of
course, parties also create a policy face by the positions
they espouse on political issues. Sometimes parties initiate
a policy facelift by changing or repackaging their policies,
altering their identity by moving to the left, or getting
tough on crime, or embracing family values, or championing
nationalism, or stressing some other policy shift.
Figures and Tables:
Table 1: Pairs of elections (29) in the study.
Figure 1: Percent of sentences assigned to 37 coding
categories in the election manifestos of the German Social
Democratic Party in 1983 and 1987.
Table 2: Central tendency and variation in correlations for
party manifestos, by party.
Figure 2: Histogram of 78 correlations between party
platforms in adjacent elections.
Table 3: Summary of election classification by party.
Table 4: Classification of elections by parties.
Table 5: The 19 lowest correlations between election
manifestos in adjacent years.
Table 6: Number of quasi-sentences in the 'short' German
Table 7: Rankings of intervening election outcome and
correlations between election manifestos.
This paper addressed the question: why do parties change
their policy identities? The manifesto project data for
eight parties in Britain, Germany and the USA were analyzed
to determine how much parties changed their emphasis on
particular issues in their manifestos between elections held
from the 1950s to the 1980s. Specifically, the percentages
of sentences accorded to 54 issue categories in one election
were correlated with the percentages discussed in the
subsequent election. The mean correlation between adjacent
election manifestos was .41 for 78 cases. The hypothesis
being tested was that electorally motivated parties were
most likely to change their policy identities following
disappointing or calamitous elections. The 17 lowest
correlations between manifestos for these parties were
analyzed according to the outcome of the preceding election.
These instances represented the most striking cases of
change in the packaging of election manifestos. Of these 17
cases, 15 followed election performances that were
independently classified as disappointing or calamitous. Our
findings suggest that while substantial change in issue
emphases may occur in the absence of poor electoral
performance, poor performance may be needed to produce
extreme attempts to change party identity through election
manifestos. While election defeat is surely not a sufficient
cause for party change, and may stop short of being
necessary for at least some types and levels of change, this
study provides new evidence of an important role for poor
electoral performance in explaining when and why parties