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Are Party Elites More Responsive to Voters? Issue Strategies in the Party Hierarchy

Elections
Elites
Political Competition
Political Parties
Representation
Campaign
Laurenz Ennser-Jedenastik
University of Vienna
Laurenz Ennser-Jedenastik
University of Vienna
Martin Haselmayer
Universität Konstanz
Lena Maria Huber
University of Vienna

Abstract

We combine the recent literature on issue competition and work on intra-party preference heterogeneity to advance a novel theoretical argument. Starting from the premise that party elites and non-elites have different motivations and incentives, we conjecture that party elites should be more likely to respond to voters’ most pressing issue concerns (riding the wave), whereas non-elites should be more likely to address a party’s core issues (issue ownership). We test this claim by linking public opinion data to manually coded information on 10,000 press releases issued by several hundred elite and non-elite actors across five election campaigns in Austria between 2006 and 2019. Our analysis accounts for self-selection into elite roles by exploiting transitions into and out of elite status across the five elections. We are thus able to present the first empirical evidence on how issue strategies vary within party hierarchies.