Everything to Everyone: The Electoral Consequences of the Broad-Appeal Strategy in Europe

The forthcoming article, “Everything to Everyone: The Electoral Consequences of the Broad-Appeal Strategy in Europe” by Zeynep Somer-Topcu is now available on Early View and is summarized here: 


Political pundits, commentators, and scholars alike expect clarity and consistency from political

parties and often criticize parties for not taking clear and distinguishable positions. However,

when political parties aim to increase their vote shares, appealing broadly to attract different

groups of voters with diverse preferences may be a winning strategy electorally. In my article, I

examine the electoral consequences of this broad-appeal strategy. I show that the strategy helps

parties win votes in the multiparty elections of West Europe by convincing voters that the party

is ideologically closer to their preferences.

There are several ways that a party may attempt to broaden its appeal, each being a different

means to the same end: to improve the party’s electoral standing by casting a wider net rather

than presenting an ideologically clear and coherent (and thus limiting) party platform. Political

parties, for instance, may take moderate positions on some salient issues while appealing to

more extreme voters on other issues; they may compete in elections with multiple leaders/

senior politicians with diverse ideological profiles; or they may be silent and vague on some

of their issue positions in order not to alienate some groups of voters. Yet, to date, we lack an

understanding of whether such broad appeals are electorally successful.

I argue that a political party benefits from the broad-appeal strategy, provided it can

simultaneously (1) convince its existing party supporters that the party is still the same one they

have earlier supported and (2) attract new voters to the party by convincing them that the party is

close to their ideological preferences. On the other hand, the strategy may fail if party supporters

and/or other voters do not buy into the party’s campaign promises.

Using data from nine West European multiparty systems, I first show that the strategy

helps parties increase their vote shares in parliamentary elections. Next, using survey data I

demonstrate that voters on average perceive the party that appeals broadly as closer to their

ideological preferences. These findings indicate that political parties in West Europe have been

quite successful in convincing voters that they are ideologically closer to their interests, and may

offer a potential recipe for electoral success in multi-party democracies.

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The Editor of the AJPS is at Michigan State University and the Editorial Office is supported by
the Michigan State University Department of Political Science and the School of Social Sciences.

  Michigan State University 
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