Do voters learn? Evidence that voters respond accurately to changes in political parties' policy positions

Henrik Bech Seeberg, Rune Slothuus, Rune Stubager
2016 West European Politics  
A premise of the mass-elite linkage at the heart of representative democracy is that voters notice changes in political parties' policy positions and update their party perceptions accordingly. However, recent studies question the ability of voters to accurately perceive changes in parties' positions. We advance this literature with a two-wave panel survey design which measured voters' perception of party positions before and after a major policy shift by parties in the government coalition in
more » ... nment coalition in Denmark 2011-2013. We report two key findings that extend previous work: First, in our case voters do indeed pay attention to parties when they visibly change policy position. Second, voters update their perceptions of the party positions much more accurately than would have been expected if they merely relied on a 'coalition heuristic' as a rule-of-thumb. Our findings imply that voters under some conditions are better able to make meaningful political choices than previous work suggests.
doi:10.1080/01402382.2016.1245902 fatcat:ndmx2ojtonaopmit7562d6mqoi