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Citizens, Context, and ChoiceHow Context Shapes Citizens' Electoral Choices$
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Russell J. Dalton and Christopher J. Anderson

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199599233

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199599233.001.0001

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The Role of Party Policy Positions in the Operation of Democracy

The Role of Party Policy Positions in the Operation of Democracy

(p.79) 4 The Role of Party Policy Positions in the Operation of Democracy
Citizens, Context, and Choice

Robin E. Best

Michael D. McDonald (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the role of political parties in providing voters with the potential to control public policy through elections. The chapter begins by asking whether popular control of policy is possible without political parties and conclude it is unlikely, if not unthinkable. We next turn to investigate how well parties fulfill the roles necessary for popular control. The chapter finds party systems in most democracies meet democratic expectations: they provide voters with manageable, recognizable, and distinct policy choices. On the final question of whether voters actually use party policy options to make each election a statement of collective policy choice, the evidence indicates they do not. The chapter concludes, because voters make choices on the basis of a mix of policy and non-policy considerations, elections as instruments of democratic representation must be seen within a time horizon that accounts for a series of elections rather than as one-off representational events.

Keywords:   political parties, Left-Right attitudes, voting behavior, party system, polarization, representation, policy voting, electoral supply, CSES

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