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Published March 2000 | validuser
Journal Article

Issues, Economics, and the Dynamics of Multiparty Elections: The British 1987 General Election


We offer a model of multiparty elections that combines voters' retrospective economic evaluations with consideration of parties' issue positions and the issue preferences of voters. We show that both policy issues and the state of the economy matter in British elections. In 1987 voters made a largely retrospective evaluation of the Conservatives based on economic performance; those who rejected the Conservative Party chose between Labour and Alliance based on issue positions. Through simulations we move the parties in the issue space and reestimate vote shares as well as hypothesize an alternative distribution of views on the economy, and we show that Labour had virtually no chance to win with a centrist party as a viable alternative. The predictions from our 1987 simulations are supported in an analysis of the 1992 British election. We argue for multinomial probit in studying three-party elections because it allows for a richer formulation of politics than do competing methods.

Additional Information

© 2000 American Political Science Association. Portions of this research were presented at the annual meetings of the American Political Science Association in 1994 and 1995; the annual meetings of the Midwest Political Science Association in 1994 and 1995; the Political Methodology Summer Conference in 1995; and the 1995 Southern California Political Economy Meetings. We thank Nathaniel Beck, John Curtice, Geoff Garrett, John Jackson, Jonathan Katz, Gary King, Jan Leighley, Harvey Palmer, Doug Rivers, Guy Whitten, and participants in seminars at Harvard University and the University of Iowa for comments on previous versions of this work. Nagler thanks the NSF for grants SBR-9413939 and SBR-9709214 and the Center for Basic Research in the Social Sciences at Harvard University for research support; Alvarez thanks the NSF for grant SBR-9709327. Statistical analyses presented here were carried out with Gauss Version 3.2.43 and GaussX Version 3.6.

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August 19, 2023
August 19, 2023