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Working Paper: Corrective behavior among mainstream parties as a vote winning strategic response to niche challengers

This paper analyzes how mainstream parties respond to their niche challengers. We know that vote seeking behavior among mainstream parties motivate them to bracket the median voter (usually situated around the center of the political spectrum), which has a moderating effect on their electoral rhetoric. However,they shift their position relative to the mood of the electorate by following the direction voters move to so moderation is not the only option. Niche parties, on the other hand, are policy seeking. They position themselves away from the center by championing issues outside the mainstream. I argue that niche parties produce a centrifugal effect pulling the median voter away from the center. This situation reduces the utility of moderation and mainstream parties adopt the rhetoric of their challengers to maintain their appeal. The system as a whole move from moderate to extreme as parties try to neutralize the effect of the niche alternative. I use the Comparative Manifesto Project data to demonstrate how niche issues make it to the manifestos of mainstream parties as an evidence of corrective behavior.The issue I am particularly interested in how radical right rhetoric makes its way to the manifestos of mainstream parties. My expectation is that corrective behavior among the mainstream parties i.e. drift away from the center becomes more likely when niche challenger disrupts the system by kindling issues (like immigration) systematically ignored by the mainstream.


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