Acta Politica

, Volume 53, Issue 1, pp 25–47 | Cite as

How parties’ issue emphasis strategies vary across communication channels: The 2009 regional election campaign in Belgium

  • Anke TreschEmail author
  • Jonas Lefevere
  • Stefaan Walgrave
Original Article


Issue ownership theory expects political parties to focus their campaigns on ‘owned’ issues for which they have a reputation of competence and a history of attention, and to avoid issues that play to the advantage of their opponents. However, recent empirical studies show that parties often campaign on the same issues. The literature has suggested several factors to account for this behavior, but has mostly neglected that issue emphasis strategies can vary across campaign communication channels and parties. Based on a quantitative content analysis of the manifestos and press releases of all seven parties competing in the 2009 regional elections in Flanders (Belgium), we make two contributions. First, we show that while there is some consistency in parties’ issue priorities, they do not necessarily set the same issue priorities in their different campaign communication channels. Second, it appears that parties follow different strategies depending on their standing in the polls, and, to a lesser degree, according to their position in government or in opposition.


saliency theory issue ownership political parties communication channels election campaigns Belgium 



This work was supported by the PARTIREP Consortium, an IAP Attraction Pole that is funded by the Belgian Science Policy [P6/37 to Kris Deschouwer, Stefaan Walgrave, Marc Hooghe, and Pascal Delwit], and the Swiss National Science Foundation (PP00P1_150451).


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Political, Historical and International StudiesUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Vesalius College BrusselsBrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium

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