Normative theories of representative government posit congruence of opinion between the electorate and their representatives. However, not all political issues are equally salient, and agreement is expected to be greater on relatively salient issues. This paper employs balance theory to describe mechanisms which may produce congruence of opinion between voters and parties when an issue increases rapidly in salience. Panel data on Norwegian opinion during the debate on European Union membership are used to determine whether opinion congruence resulted from persuasion by political parties or policy voting by the electorate. Policy voters are found to differ systematically from voters who were persuaded by parties. Finally, the characteristics of parties which determine their success in persuading voters or attracting policy voters are evaluated.
Political Behavior – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 28, 2004
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