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Jane GreenParty and voter incentives at the crowded centre of British politics”
Party Politics January 2015 21: 80-99

 [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol21/issue1/ ]

First paragraph:

There is a puzzle to be answered about recent British elections. The third party, the Liberal Democrats, increased its vote-shares in 2001, 2005 and 2010 despite the ideological depolarization of the main two British parties, Labour and the Conservatives, and despite all three parties occupying ideological positions towards the centre ground. Rather than the Liberal Democrats’ support being squeezed by the two main parties, or rather than the third party pushing the two main parties to more clearly differentiated policies, all three parties competed near the centre of the British ideological spectrum. The third party is now in coalition with the Conservatives, and its support has waned since 2010, but its route to office allows us to test some of the most conventional expectations of party competition theories: those relating to spatial competition and to the maximization of vote-shares.


Tables and Figures:


Figure 1. The proportion of respondents percieving 'a great deal of difference' between the main parties and the share of respondents voting for the third party in Britain between 1970 and 2010.
Table 1. A multinomial model of vote choice in the 2001 election using a spatial measure of party differences.
Table 2. A multinomial model of vote choice in the 2001 election using a 'parties offer no real choices' measure of party differences.
Table 3(a). A multinomial model of vote choice in the 2005 election using a spatial measure of party differences.
Table 3(b). A multinomial model of vote choice in the 2005 election using a 'parties offer no real choices' measure of party differences.
Table 4(a).  A multinomial model of vote choice in the 2010 election using a spatial measure of party differences.
Table 4(b). A multinomial model of vote choice in the 2010 election using a 'parties offer no real choices' measure of party differences.
Table 5. The marginal change in predicted probability of voting Labour/Conservative by proximity benefit and by seperation benefit, 2001, 2005 and 2010.


Last Paragraph:

The effect of indifference, or of diminishing party differences, serves to mediate the effects of orthogonal issue dimensions and other voting criteria on the votes for the third party. Indifference can therefore exert an indirect effect on the basis of the vote choice and on the incentives for party competition under conditions of party similarities. Many theories of party competition account for contexts of party differentiation, explaining divergent strategies via a range of incentives; directional (Rabinowitz and Macdonald, 1989), partisan (see Adams, 2001), turnout (Hinich and Munger, 1997), valence (Schofield, 20042005) or policy-seeking motives (Groseclose, 2001Wittman, 1983). This article builds on these studies by highlighting the separation incentives arising from a perception of strongly convergent parties whereby this perception results in vote gains to other parties. Parties may not always have greater incentives to separate, or be able to do so, but the mediating effects of party similarities provide an additional explanation to account for the vote losses of major parties when they converge around the median voter.



 

Last updated Febuary 2015