British Journal of Political Science

Research Article

Valence as Macro-Competence: An Analysis of Mood in Party Competence Evaluations in Great Britain

Jane Green and Will Jennings*


There is a discernable mood in macro-level public evaluations of party issue competence. This paper argues that voters use heuristics to transfer issue competence ratings of parties between issues, therefore issue competence ratings move in common. Events, economic shocks and the costs of governing reinforce these shared dynamics. These expectations are analysed using issue competence data in Britain 1950–2008, and using Stimson's dyad ratios algorithm to estimate ‘macro-competence’. Effects on macro-competence are found for events and economic shocks, time in government, leader ratings, economic evaluations and partisanship, but macro-competence also accounts for unique variance in a model of party choice. The article presents an aggregate-level time-series measure to capture the long-term dynamics of ‘valence’.

(Online publication October 24 2011)


* School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester (email: The authors wish to thank John Bartle and David Sanders for sharing data, Jim Stimson for his assistance with the dyad ratios algorithm, and Ian Budge, Mathew Lebo and Michael Lewis-Beck, as well as the anonymous reviewers of this journal, for their invaluable comments on earlier versions of this article.