British Journal of Political Science


Understanding Parties’ Policy Shifts in Western Europe: The Role of Valence, 1976–2003

Michael Clark *


Do parties’ valence characteristics affect their policy strategies? The verdict of the spatial modeling literature on the positioning effects of valence is mixed on this point. Some spatial studies argue that valence-advantaged parties/candidates should moderate their policies, while others argue that they should radicalize their policies. Empirical cross-national work on this issue has been lacking. Using an original measure of valence and party positioning data compiled by the Comparative Manifesto Project, the period 1976–2003 is analyzed in this article for nine West European countries. The findings suggest that as parties’ character-based valence attributes worsen they tend to moderate their Left–Right positions, and there is a notable time lag in parties’ responses to changes in their character-based valence attributes.

(Online publication February 21 2013)


*  Department of Political Science, Northern Illinois University (e-mail: The author wishes to thank Jim Adams and Debra Leiter for their thoughtful comments during the drafting of this article. A supplementary appendix and data replication sets are available at