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VAAs and party mapping in Europe and Latin America: A cross regional perspective

Fernando Mendez
University of Zurich
Fernando Mendez
University of Zurich
Jonathan Wheatley
Oxford Brookes University
Open Panel

Abstract

The starting point of this paper is the assumption that political parties are defined not only by their elites but also by their supporters at grassroots level. For this reason, studies that measure the ideological profile of parties by looking solely at the policy statements of their leadership address only part of the puzzle, albeit an important an important one. This paper introduces a new tool to analyse the policy orientations of ordinary party supporters with a view to mapping the ideological profile of parties. Data generated by a Voting Advice Application (VAA) on party supporters in four elections across two very distinct geographic regions, Latin America (Brazil and Peru) and Europe (Greece and the UK), is used to map the ideological coherence of party supporters. Two of these cases, Brazil and Peru, represent instances in which a VAA has been deployed for the first time. The analysis reveals that whilst parties had in most cases similar levels of policy cohesiveness overall, in Latin American (especially Brazil) parties can effectively be separated by a single economic dimension whereas in Europe the policy space tends to be defined by two dimensions (especially in Greece). To this end, VAAs represent an innovative tool for measuring programmatic linkages between party elites and voters, not just in advanced Western democracies but also in societies that have achieved middle levels of development.