‘Credible’ or ‘Capricious’? The Reputational Cost of Party Policy Change


Political competition in Europe has become more unpredictable. Mainstream parties increasingly struggle with declining public trust, decreasing voter loyalty, and the rise of radical challenger parties. This has compelled mainstream parties to change their policy positions for strategic reasons, in the hope of improving their election performance or their governing prospects. Although political scientists have extensively studied the drivers of party policy change, it is unclear how party policy change affects parties’ reputations in the eyes of the voters. This project examines under which circumstances voters accept policy change as credible and when they reject it as capricious. Grasping how party policy change affects parties’ reputations is of crucial importance for our understanding of how European representative democracies function in an era of strategic party politics. It sheds light on how our societies can cope with the dual challenge of declining public trust in political parties and of changing political circumstances to which parties must respond, two pillars of the Dutch National Research Agenda’s thematic route “Towards Resilient Societies”. To assess the effect of policy change on party reputations, the empirical focus of this project lies on assessing what explains individual voters’ credence in mainstream parties and their policy changes. As voters’ appraisal of policy change is unlikely to be the same across all political contexts, I expect that voters’ credence in policy change will be particularly affected by three factors: (1) the type of policy issue and its saliency; (2) whether voters associate the party with the issue in question; and (3) the presence of successful challenger parties.
To examine the effect of party policy change on mainstream party reputations in Europe, I employ a multi-method empirical strategy consisting of innovative survey experiments in three European countries complemented with analyses of existing cross-national survey data and party positioning data.





Dr. M.J. Meijers

Verbonden aan

Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen, Politicologie


Dr. M.J. Meijers


01/11/2019 tot 31/12/2022