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Explaining party ideological stances: from simulation to real elections. A comparative analysis using CSES survey data

Luigi Curini
Università degli Studi di Milano
Luigi Curini
Università degli Studi di Milano
Stefano Iacus
Università degli Studi di Milano
Open Panel

Abstract

According to the literature, three main reasons can help to explain the ideological stance assumed by a party during a given electoral competition. First, a party can decide to select a given (policy) position because he thinks that this will grant him the largest share of votes. Alternatively, he could try to assume a position that maximizes his chances to be involved in the next coalition-cabinet. Finally, he could simply select the position closest to his own ideal policy position. To discern the relative merits of these three possible sources of behaviors, one should need to contrast a number of cases, possibly characterized by different political and institutional variables, against a clear benchmark of party-behavior. This is what we do. On one side, we rely on survey-data from the CSES (Comparative Study of Electoral Systems) project up to the most recent "Advance Release" of CSES Module 3. This allows us to collect a considerable large pool of observations, covering 35 democracies and 73 elections. On the other side, following the theoretical contribution originally proposed in Adams, Grofman and Merrill (2005), we run a number of simulated scenarios, through an original script that we have developed in R, assuming that parties are mainly interested in vote-maximizing. The equilibrium party policy positions so derived constitute our counterfactual scenario against which the actual (perceived) position of parties are compared with. We use the counterfactual scenarios as proto-theoretical devices (Axelrod 1997). The aim of the comparison is to understand the nature of the electoral incentives facing parties, to explore if there are some affinities/divergences between the two moments (the actual and the simulated ones), and deriving from this some insights on real party system competition.