The effect of valence and ideology in campaign conversion: panel evidence from three Spanish general elections

Abstract

This paper studies changes in voting preferences over election campaigns. Building on the literature on spatial models and valence issues, we study whether (1) ideological distance to political parties, (2) assessments of party competence to handle different policy issues, and (3) voter-updated candidate evaluations are factors that explain shifts in voter choices in the weeks preceding the election. To test our hypotheses, we use data from three survey panels conducted for the 2008, 2011 and 2015 Spanish general elections. Our findings show that valence factors are more influential than ideological indifference to account for campaign conversion.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The actual effect of the abundant political information available in the campaign period remains an open empirical question. For example, McCann and Lawson (2006) find that campaign information does not erode the gap in political knowledge due to different levels of education. In contrast, Fourier (2006) finds that campaigns do reduce the variance in political information among the electorate, although substantial individual-level differences remain after the campaign.

  2. 2.

    Some authors (Lago and Martínez i Coma 2013; García-Viñuela et al. 2016) argue that campaign management is also very nationalized.

  3. 3.

    Although formally dependent on the Spanish government, the CIS is an independent agency with its own legal status and funding. Its aim is to conduct scientific studies of Spanish society.

  4. 4.

    CIS studies 2750-2757, 2915-2920 and 3117-3126.

  5. 5.

    Details about survey questions and sampling techniques are available on the Internet at: http://www.cis.es/cis/opencm/ES/1_encuestas.

  6. 6.

    Respondents who state in the pre-election survey that they do not know what they are going to do on Election Day or report in the post-election survey that they do not remember what they did on Election Day are coded as missing. The same applies to people that report a blank or a null vote either in the pre- or the post-election survey or that refuse to answer these questions.

  7. 7.

    The wording of the questions slightly differs over elections. For more information, see the description of variables in the online Appendix.

  8. 8.

    In the party models, the candidate variables are simply the difference in the candidate’s rating of each party over the two waves.

  9. 9.

    To account for any potential collinearity between our valence variables (i.e., heterogeneous assessments and candidates evaluations), we run an OLS regression taking as dependent variable the difference in candidate evaluations between the pre- and the post-election survey and as independent variables all the variables included in the models. As shown in Table A2 of the online Appendix, heterogeneous valence is not a statistically significant predictor of change in candidate evaluations. In addition, we also run multicollinearity tests in which we do not detect any risk of multicollinearity in the models in Table 1. The variance inflation factors in model 2 for heterogeneous assessments and candidates evaluations are 1.57 and 2.10, respectively, and in model 4, 1.92 and 3.34, respectively. This indicates that there are no reasons to be concerned.

  10. 10.

    We can only estimate this effect for the Socialist Party because it is the only one that changes the candidate over the years (Mr. Zapatero in 2008, Mr. Rubalcaba in 2011 and Mr. Sanchez in 2015).

  11. 11.

    Information about left–right salience is taken from the Comparative Manifesto Project (https://manifesto-project.wzb.eu/).

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Acknowledgements

We thank the journal’s editors and reviewers for helpful comments. We are grateful to the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness for financial support through grant CSO2013-40870-R.

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Correspondence to Enrique García-Viñuela.

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García-Viñuela, E., Jurado, I. & Riera, P. The effect of valence and ideology in campaign conversion: panel evidence from three Spanish general elections. Public Choice 175, 155–179 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11127-018-0522-8

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Keywords

  • Valence politics
  • Spatial models
  • Election campaigns
  • Conversion effect
  • SPAIN
  • Panel analysis

JEL Classification

  • D 72