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Let the Cobbler Stick to His Last? Issue Salience in Sub-National Party Manifestos

Federalism
Party Manifestos
Political Competition
Representation
Campaign
Martin Gross
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München – LMU
Martin Gross
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München – LMU
Svenja Krauss
University of Essex
Katrin Praprotnik
Danube-University of Krems

Abstract

Elections are at the heart of representative democracies. Voters choose between different parties and their proposed programs by keeping in mind that these will determine policymaking during the next legislative term. However, while the study of national election campaigns is a prominent research field in comparative politics, we still know very little about sub-national political actors’ behaviour. In this paper, we start closing this gap by analysing issue salience in sub-national election manifestos in federalised countries. Our main argument revolves around the legally defined distribution of competences and the interdependence between the national and state level. More specifically, we hypothesize that parties at the sub-national level will put more emphasis on topics for which they have the legislative competences. Our research design takes the multi-level character of party competition at the regional level into account. We expect that a party’s government status at the national level, nation-wide opinion polls as well as the national electoral calendar affect sub-national campaign decisions. To test our hypotheses, we rely on a dictionary coding approach and analyse the issue-based content of sub-national election manifestos of parties in Germany and Austria between 1990 and 2019. Our results will have important implications for our understanding of the interdependence between the national and the state level in European multi-level political systems.