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Lawrence Ezrow, Catherine De Vries, Marco Steenbergen, and Erica Edwards, "Mean voter representation and partisan constituency representation: Do parties respond to the mean voter position or to their supporters?" Party Politics, 17 (May, 2011), 275-301. [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol17/issue3/ ]

First paragraph:
Do political parties respond to the ideological shifts of their supporters or to those of the mean voter in the electorate (or to neither)? Previous theoretical and empirical research stresses the primacy of the mean or median voter's policy preference as the starting point for democratic representation (Adams et al., 2004, 2006; Downs, 1957; Erikson et al., 2002; Huber and Powell, 1994; McDonald and Budge, 2005; Powell, 2000; Stimson et al., 1995). An alternative and equally compelling vision of policy representation emphasizes the policy preference of the mean party supporter in explaining party- citizen linkages (Dalton, 1985; Weissberg, 1978; Wessels, 1999), and recent research by Hobolt and Klemmenson (2009) suggests that parties cater to different constituencies at different points in the election cycle. We refer to the first model of political representation as the general electorate model, and to the second as the partisan constituency model. In addition, recent work on niche parties provides convincing evidence that the type of party (i.e. 'mainstream' versus 'niche' parties) mediates linkages between parties' and citizens' policy preferences (Adams et al., 2006; Meguid, 2005, 2008).

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Explaining parties' policy shifts

Last Paragraph:
(Penultimate paragraph) The study raises several interesting questions for future research. While the evidence suggests that there are indeed direct linkages between voter preferences and the policy positions that are on offer by parties in a political system, our explanations are only tentative. A comprehensive explanation requires contextual analyses of Western European parties: namely, of parties' organizational structures, of party elites, as well as of rank-and-file party supporters. A detailed analysis of why different types of parties receive different signals from different segments of the electorate, though outside the scope of this study, is necessary to reach a better understanding of how changes occur to the policy choices that political parties present to the electorate.

Last updated April 2011