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Party performance explains disagreement between politicians and their parties

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Are politicians more likely to disagree with their party after an electoral defeat or during a spell in opposition? If so, are they likely to advocate a more moderate or a more radical position than their party? In order to evaluate this, the article analyses the absolute distance between candidates for parliament and their parties on the left–right dimension. The sample used consists of 5614 politicians from 11 countries (Comparative Candidate Survey). Controlling for party system differences and individual characteristics, the results demonstrate that politicians take more moderate positions than their party after an electoral defeat. Also politicians of government parties are surprisingly more likely to disagree than politicians of opposition parties. These results overlap with predictions of party position shifts and inform the discussion on how intra-party dynamics bring about changes in party position. In addition, the article finds evidence of loss aversion, and differences in the responsiveness of elite and non-elite candidates.
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Keywords: Party positions; candidates; electoral performance; intra-party politics; intra-party unity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Political Science, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands 2: Department of Political Science and Public Management, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark

Publication date: March 4, 2018

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