Ideology for the Future

Political parties sometimes adopt unpopular positions that condemn them to electoral defeat. This phenomenon is usually ascribed to expressive motives—namely, parties’ desire to maintain their ideological purity. Could ideological parties instead have strategic incentives to lose? To answer this question, I present a model of repeated spatial elections in which voters face uncertainty about their preferred policy and learn via experience. The amount of voter learning, I show, depends on the location of the implemented policy: a more radical policy generates more information. For a party whose ideological stance is unpopular with the electorate, this creates a trade-off between winning the upcoming election so as to secure policy influence and changing voters’ preferences so as to win with a better platform in the future. Under some conditions the party gambles on the future. It chooses to lose today to possibly change voters’ views and win big tomorrow.


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License CC BY
Type Journal Articles
C-ID POLS 120 - Theory