You've Got Some Explaining To Do The Influence of Economic Conditions and Spatial Competition on Party Strategy Academic Article uri icon


  • Although a voluminous literature has shed light on the relationship between economic conditions and government accountability, most studies in this literature have implicitly assumed that the actions of competing political parties are either irrelevant or that they cancel each other out. In this paper, we take an important first step toward relaxing this strong assumption. We develop and test a set of theoretical propositions from the issue competition literature about the amount of emphasis that parties place on the economy during election campaigns. We test these propositions with an estimation technique that properly situates the motivations of rival elites within the context of spatial party competition using a spatial autoregressive model. On a sample of 22 advanced democracies from 1957 to 2006, we find strong support for the proposition that parties with a greater role in economic policymaking respond to worsening economic conditions by increasing their emphasis on the economy during election campaigns. We also find strong evidence of spatial contagion effects as parties respond positively to the campaign strategies of ideologically proximate parties. This finding reveals a fundamental link in the chain of economic accountability and has important implications for the study of party competition.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Williams, L. K., Seki, K., & Whitten, G. D.

citation count

  • 36

complete list of authors

  • Williams, Laron K||Seki, Katsunori||Whitten, Guy D

publication date

  • January 2016