Political folklore holds that political parties often try to change their images following a disastrous election defeat. This paper inquires into the truth of this common assumption through a systematic analysis of manifestos promulgated by eight parties in Britain, Germany and the USA prior to national elections in the 1950s through 1980s. Each election was classified as triumphal, gratifying, tolerable, disappointing or calamitous from the standpoint of each party. The change in party images for adjacent elections was assessed by correlating the percentages of sentences devoted to standard political themes in the pair of manifestos. We tested the hypothesis that parties were most likely to change their policy images following disappointing or calamitous elections. Our findings suggest that poor electoral performance was not a sufficient condition to produce a major overhaul of party images, but poor performance in the prior election was virtually necessary to produce major change in policy packaging at the next election.