Project

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Structures and dynamics of issue competition in two consensus democracies: how political parties set their agendas to attract voters

English title Structures and dynamics of issue competition in two consensus democracies: how political parties set their agendas to attract voters
Applicant Tresch Anke
Number 131032
Funding scheme Fellowships for prospective researchers
Research institution Universiteit Antwerpen Dept. Politike Wetenschappen
Institution of higher education Institution abroad - IACH
Main discipline Political science
Start/End 01.08.2010 - 31.07.2011
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All Disciplines (3)

Discipline
Political science
Communication sciences
Sociology

Keywords (6)

political parties; issue competition; agenda setting; media coverage; Switzerland; Belgium

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
As a consequence of a series of societal changes from the mid-1960s onwards, Western democracies have witnessed a double shift from class-based to issue-based voting and from mass parties to catch-all parties. With the decline of traditional party loyalties and rising levels of electoral instability, political parties can no longer count on the commitment of their traditional constituencies, but have to compete for a more volatile electorate and to attract voters on the basis of policy issues. As a result, the structures and dynamics of issue competition between political parties have become increasingly important, and leading European scholars have started to integrate theories of issue ownership with US policy agenda research to study issue competition. However, recent studies are descriptive rather than explanatory and a coherent theoretical framework identifying the determinants of cross-national and cross-time variations in issue competition as well as systematic empirical investigations covering multiple issues over long periods of time are still lacking.Against this background, the aim of my project is to develop and test an encompassing model to explain the structures and dynamics of issue competition. This model is based on the assumption that issue competition between political parties consists of a static and a dynamic component and primarily takes place in the media. The static component is derived from classic issue ownership theory, and is influenced by the structure of deep historic cleavages. From this perspective, I expect political parties to devote attention to party-owned issues, resulting in high stability in issue competition over time. However, I claim that under certain circumstances, political parties cannot simply stick to "their" issues, but have to address less advantageous ones, too. This dynamic concept of issue competition builds on insights from policy agenda research and argues that political parties are embedded in a broader context that constrains the selection or avoidance of issues. From this perspective, I argue that institutional settings, changes in the external environment, issue agendas and strategies of other actors, as well as party characteristics determine if and to what extent political parties have to address issues that they do not own.Empirically, I build on a most similar systems design, comparing two small consensus democracies (Belgium and Switzerland) over the period 1992-2007. The data stem from semi-automated content analysis of front page news in two quality papers. To capture dynamics and causal mechanisms, the data will by analyzed by different techniques of quantitative time series analysis.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Publications

Publication
The Limits of Issue Ownership Dynamics: The Constraining Effect of Party Preference
Walgrave Stefaan, Lefevere Jonas, Tresch Anke (2014), The Limits of Issue Ownership Dynamics: The Constraining Effect of Party Preference, in Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, 24(1), 1-19.
The Associative Dimension of Issue Ownership
Walgrave Stefaan, Lefevere Jonas, Tresch Anke (2012), The Associative Dimension of Issue Ownership, in Public Opinion Quarterly, 76(4), 771-782.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Research Group Media, Movements, and Politics (M2P) Belgium (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Annual Conference of the Comparative Agendas Project Talk given at a conference The Associative Dimension of Issue Ownership. Conceptualisation, Measurement, and Effect 24.06.2011 Catania, Italy Tresch Anke;
Workshop on political parties, public policy and issue competition Talk given at a conference The Associative Dimension of Issue Ownership. Conceptualisation, Measurement, and Effect 30.03.2011 Paris, France Tresch Anke;


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