Welcome to ICCP

The Issue Competition Comparative Project is a comparative, international social science research project about party competition.

Theory

The theoretical foundation of the ICCP lies in issue yield theory (De Sio and Weber 2014; De Sio 2018). The aim is to analyze party competition through an issue competition perspective, i.e. by conceptualizing political parties and leaders as rational, vote-maximizing political entrepreneurs that strategically exploit available issue opportunities in a context where voters are available across ideological boundaries. This brings a new perspective for reading the recent, disruptive electoral changes that have invested many countries, allowing to understand the success of new parties, as well as providing suggestions about the strategic opportunities available to mainstream parties.

Team

Led by Lorenzo De Sio with Davide Angelucci, Roberto D’Alimonte, Vincenzo Emanuele, Nicola Maggini, Aldo Paparo (and the support of Luca Carrieri, Elisabetta Mannoni and Davide Vittori) within the CISE (Italian Center for Electoral Studies) at LUISS University Rome, the ICCP has so far involved 20 scholars from 13 different European and American universities, along with additional funding and scientific partners.

Data collection

The first ICCP data collection round has covered six West European countries (Netherlands, France, United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Italy) that held general elections in 2017-18, featuring an innovative empirical strategy. This has exploited new survey measurement tools and strategies for capturing issue opportunities (featuring articulated measurement for more than 20 issues for each country), along with the monitoring and coding of party activity on Twitter during the electoral campaign.

The project is now actively seeking partners for future data collection efforts covering national elections from 2019 on. Spain 2019 has already been covered, and fieldwork for Poland 2019 is currently being performed.

Data

Data from the ICCP 2017-18 data collection round have been released to the scientific community through the GESIS international data archive.

Partners

Participating scholars

Sylvia Kritzinger
Patricia Oberluggauer
Carolina Plescia
AUTNES – Universität Wien
Romain LachatCEVIPOF – Sciences Po Paris
Till WeberCity University of New York
Simon Franzmann
Thomas Poguntke
Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf
Cristian VaccariLoughborough University
Davide Angelucci
Roberto D’Alimonte
Lorenzo De Sio
Vincenzo Emanuele
Aldo Paparo
LUISS “Guido Carli” Rome
Oliver Heath
Kaat Smets
Royal Holloway University of London
Mark N. FranklinTrinity College Connecticut
Nicola MagginiUniversità di Firenze
Elie MichelUniversität Luzern
Joost van SpanjeUniversiteit van Amsterdam
Mathilde van DitmarsUniversiteit Leiden
Heiko GieblerWZB Berlin Social Science Center

Special funding and scientific partners

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Rome Office
GESIS – Leibniz-Institut für Sozialwissenschaften
Hoover Institution at Stanford University

Universität Wien

Publications

Immediately after data collection in each country, a number of short, pre-electoral analyses aimed at the general public have been published on the CISE website. These have been later collected in a 210-page, freely available instant e-book featuring scholars from ICCP partner institutions in five different countries.

The data have then been analyzed in depth by multiple country teams involving top scholars from several countries, resulting in ten scientific articles that will be collected in a special issue of West European Politics titled Conflict Mobilization or Problem-solving? Issue Competition in Western Europe and expected in 2019.

As of October 2019, the following articles are already available online on the WEP website:

The big picture

Issue competition in Western Europe: an introduction
Lorenzo De Sio & Romain Lachat
Published online: 30 Oct 2019

The special issue introduced in this article presents the results of the Issue Competition Comparative Project (ICCP). The project uses issue yield theory to provide a general, comprehensive perspective on issue competition (party competition through issue strategy) that goes beyond the extant focus on specific parties or specific issues. Relying on voter surveys and Twitter data collected in the context of recent elections in six West European countries, we address several key research questions concerning issue competition: (a) whether the strategies of different parties are loyal to classic 20th-century ideological alignments or rather actively challenging them; (b) whether different parties opt for conflict-mobilization or problem-solving issue strategic approaches; (c) whether party adherence to the issue opportunities identified by issue yield theory are rewarded by better electoral performance.

Theoretical and comparative articles:

From issues to goals: a novel conceptualisation, measurement and research design for comprehensive analysis of electoral competition
Roberto D’Alimonte, Lorenzo De Sio & Mark N. Franklin
Published online: 26 Sep 2019

The analysis of issue politics has long suffered from a fragmentation between valence and positional conceptualisations, preventing the effective development of a general model of issue-based party competition. Building on an overview of the evolution of party competition in the Western world in recent decades, this article offers a theoretical development that builds on ‘issue yield’ theory to provide a conceptualisation of political goals that generalises across positional and valence issues. This in turn allows a common measurement strategy, offering the possibility to comparatively assess various characteristics (including the electoral potential) of both positional and valence issues. Finally, it describes the specific research design derived from this framework and its implementation in comparative perspective in six West European countries during 2017–2018.

Making sense of party strategy innovation: challenge to ideology and conflict-mobilisation as dimensions of party competition
Lorenzo De Sio & Romain Lachat
Published online: 30 Sep 2019

This article develops a pooled comparative analysis aimed at addressing two of the three overarching research questions of the special issue. It first discuss an ‘end of ideology’ research question: that is, whether party constituencies and party strategy show clear challenges to classic twentieth century ideological alignments. Second, it investigates the type of issue strategy that parties employ in this new ideological environment, expecting mainstream parties to stress a problem-solving approach, while challenger parties should favour a conflict-mobilisation strategy. Finally, the article combines these two fundamental dimensions (ideological consistency; reliance on problem-solving vs. conflict-mobilisation strategies) in order to identify party strategy innovations in current West European elections.

Issue yield, campaign communication, and electoral performance: a six-country comparative analysis
Lorenzo De Sio & Till Weber
Published online: 01 Oct 2019

This article develops and tests a model that explains election outcomes on the basis of party strategy. It employs a new comparative dataset linking representative mass surveys from six European countries with Twitter analysis of campaign activity. The expectation is that parties whose issue agendas exploit electoral opportunities while avoiding risks will be rewarded at the polls. These risks and opportunities are modelled using issue yield, a general framework summarising public support, electoral alignments, and party credibility. Empirically, the article traces a three-step process: (1) the configuration of electoral risks and opportunities (which is captured through public opinion surveys) guides party communication (measured with Twitter data), and to the degree that (2) parties design their campaigns strategically (identified through issue yield), this in turn (3) improves their electoral performance (measured using official statistics). The analysis explains some of the most salient election outcomes of recent years.

Country analyses:

The times they are a-changin’: party campaign strategies in the 2018 Italian election
Vincenzo Emanuele, Nicola Maggini & Aldo Paparo
Published online: 30 Sep 2019

The 2018 Italian election produced striking results, with both a historic success for the two challenger parties (League and M5S) and massive defeats for the two mainstream parties (PD and FI). This article analyses party campaign strategies and their consistency with the opportunity structures provided by the configuration of Italian public opinion. Relying on issue-yield theory, original survey data were collected for both issue support and priority among Italian voters, and party emphases on issues in the electoral campaign – through Twitter data. The findings indicate a generalised ideological inconsistency of the constituencies of the main parties, while campaign strategies appear much more ideologically consistent. Moreover, it is found that parties focused mostly on conflict-mobilisation strategies, rather than on problem solving. Finally, the article shows that, in general, parties acted strategically, by aligning their campaign to the available opportunities, although with relevant variations across parties.

Parties’ issue strategies on the drawing board: the 2017 Austrian case
Carolina Plescia, Sylvia Kritzinger & Patricia Oberluggauer
Published online: 01 Oct 2019

Parties may rely on different issue agendas when tailoring their electoral campaigns in an attempt to win elections. This paper compares two key party issue strategies to examine which one the victorious Austrian Peoples’ Party (ÖVP) relied on the most during the 2017 Austrian election campaign vis-à-vis its main competitors. These two key party strategies are the ‘riding-the-wave’ model, which posits that parties focus on issues that currently concern voters the most and the recent ‘issue-yield model’, which instead suggests that parties adopt strategic behaviour targeting all those issues with genuine opportunities for electoral expansion. It is found that, compared to the other main parties in the 2017 Austrian election campaign, the ÖVP was the one most clearly relying on the issue-yield approach. These results have important implications for our understanding of electoral campaigns, party’s exploitation of issue strategies, and voter representation beyond the Austrian case.

The United Kingdom 2017 election: polarisation in a split issue space
Cristian Vaccari, Kaat Smets & Oliver Heath
Published online: 01 Oct 2019

After decades in which party competition was fought in the centre ground, the 2017 UK General Election witnessed a return to more conflictual politics. This article assesses public support for the electoral strategies of the main parties and examines the extent to which the issues the parties campaigned on resonated with their own supporters, as well as with the wider public. Drawing on the issue-yield framework, the article shows that the Conservative campaign – generally considered to be badly run – did not focus on issues that would fully exploit the opportunities for expanding support that were open to the party. Labour, by contrast, played a much better hand. While taking a clear left-wing stance on many policies that were popular with its constituency, the party also skilfully emphasised valence issues that Labour is often seen as more credible on, such as healthcare and education.

Campaigning in an unprecedented election: issue competition in the French 2017 presidential election
Romain Lachat  & Elie Michel
Published online: 14 Oct 2019

The 2017 French presidential elections featured an eventful campaign, produced astonishing results, and presented important signs of party system change. This paper analyses the main lines of divide of the demand and the supply side of electoral competition. It analyses the structure of citizens’ preferences, as well as the candidates’ strategic issue opportunities, relying on issue yield theory. To that end, it combines data from an original individual-level survey with information about the candidates’ Twitter messages. It is found that the traditional model of two-dimensional political space, characterised by an economic (left–right) and socio-cultural (integration–demarcation) dimension is largely challenged. On the supply-side, the analysis offers additional evidence for the central role played by the integration–demarcation divide, while showing that the traditional left–right conflict has not fully disappeared.

Small winners and big losers: strategic party behaviour in the 2017 Dutch general election
Mathilde M. van Ditmars, Nicola Maggini & Joost van Spanje
Published online: 17 Oct 2019

This article analyses party strategies during the campaign for the Dutch general election of March 2017, making use of issue-yield theory. It investigates whether parties strategically emphasise high-yield issues, by juxtaposing the issue opportunities provided by voters with parties’ issue emphasis during the campaign. More specifically, it asks whether parties strategically emphasised issues that were expected to reward them electorally. Analysing voter preferences and party campaign data, it is found that parties and most of their constituencies show high ideological consistency, that parties emphasise mostly positional issues and thus choose a conflict-mobilising strategy, and that most parties emphasise high-yield issues rather than following the general political agenda. Four small parties that won significantly behaved strategically while the social democrats – who severely lost – hardly did. The findings imply that the issue-yield framework can help to explain the election result in the fragmented Dutch multi-party context.

It’s no longer the economy, stupid! Issue yield at the 2017 German federal election
Simon T. Franzmann, Heiko Giebler & Thomas Poguntke
Published online: 30 Oct 2019

This article demonstrates that the issue-yield concept is able to predict the electoral strategies of mainstream and challenger parties at the 2017 German federal election. While the electorate of mainstream parties favour valence issues, the Greens and the AfD can gain more by concentrating on socio-cultural positional issues. Relying on a unique survey covering 17 positional issues and 10 valence issues as well as an analysis of Twitter accounts, the article shows that contemporary Germany is characterised by a centrifugal competition on the socio-cultural dimension. At the same time, an asymmetric ideological confrontation persists on the socio-economic dimension, because the Left and the SPD still refer to their traditional welfare issues while the bourgeois parties no longer counter this with a contrasting free-market ideology. Thus, the economy is currently not the decisive issue in German politics. Migration, integration, and other socio-cultural issues are rather driving electoral competition.