An agenda-setting theory of electoral competition

Tiberiu Dragu, Xiaochen Fan

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The strategy of parties regarding which issues to emphasize during electoral campaigns is an important aspect of electoral competition. In this article, we advance research on electoral competition by developing a multidimensional model of electoral competition in which parties compete for electoral support by raising the electoral salience of position issues. We show that parties have incentives to advertise an issue on which the opponent has a more popular position or an issue on which neither party has electoral advantage. We also show that the party with the lower equilibrium vote share prefers to emphasize more controversial issues, while the party with the higher equilibrium vote share prefers to emphasize more consensual issues on its electoral agenda. The analysis provides a theoretical foundation for moving toward a more complete understanding of the content of campaign communication on issues on which voters disagree about which policies ought to be implemented. It also provides novel empirical predictions about how the structure of public opinion impacts the campaign strategy of parties, which can foster further empirical research on electoral campaigns and issue selection.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1170-1183
    Number of pages14
    JournalJournal of Politics
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Oct 2016

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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