When does valence matter? Heightened valence effects for governing parties during election campaigns

Abney, R., Adams, J., Clark, M., Easton, M., Ezrow, L., Kosmidis, S., & Neundorf, A. (2013). When does valence matter? Heightened valence effects for governing parties during election campaigns. Party Politics, 19(1), 61–82. http://doi.org/10.1177/1354068810395057

ABSTRACT

Empirical election studies conclude that party elites' images with respect to competence, integrity and party unity – attributes that we label character-based valence – affect their electoral support (Stone and Simas, 2010). We compile observations of media reports pertaining to governing party elites' character-based valence attributes, and we relate the content of these reports to mass support for the governing parties. We present pooled, time-series, analyses of party support and valence-related media reports in six European polities which suggest that these reports exert powerful electoral effects during election campaigns but little effect during off-election periods. This finding, which we label the Election Period Valence Effect, is consistent with previous work concluding that citizens are also more attentive to policy-based considerations and to national economic conditions around the time of elections. These findings have implications for political representation and for understanding election outcomes.

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