Issues, economics, and the dynamics of multiparty elections: The British 1987 general election

R. Michael Alvarez, Jonathan Nagler, Shaun Bowler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-149
Number of pages19
JournalAmerican Political Science Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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