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Ideology, Issues, and the Spatial Theory of Elections


  • Enelow, James M.
  • Hinich, Melvin J.


The purpose of this article is to explore the connection between ideology and issues in the minds of voters and the relationship between this connection and the electoral prospects of candidates engaged in two-candidate competition. Toward this end we examine the effects on electoral competition of either magnifying or collapsing the expected policy difference that voters associate with a fixed ideological difference. We find that magnifying this difference aids the incumbent, whereas collapsing it aids the challenger. We go on to point out how this second result provides an explanation for the electoral appeal of extremist candidates and an important insight into the question of state stability.

Suggested Citation

  • Enelow, James M. & Hinich, Melvin J., 1982. "Ideology, Issues, and the Spatial Theory of Elections," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 76(3), pages 493-501, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:apsrev:v:76:y:1982:i:03:p:493-501_18

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    Cited by:

    1. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 2002. "Political economics and public finance," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.),Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 24, pages 1549-1659, Elsevier.
    2. Howitt, Peter & Wintrobe, Ronald, 1995. "The political economy of inaction," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(3), pages 329-353, March.
    3. James Cochran & David Curry & Rajesh Radhakrishnan & Jon Pinnell, 2014. "Political engineering: optimizing a U.S. Presidential candidate’s platform," Annals of Operations Research, Springer, vol. 215(1), pages 63-87, April.
    4. Susumu Shikano & Dominic Nyhuis, 2019. "The effect of incumbency on ideological and valence perceptions of parties in multilevel polities," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 181(3), pages 331-349, December.
    5. Arianna Degan, 2003. "A Dynamic Model of Voting," PIER Working Paper Archive 04-015, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 01 May 2004.
    6. James Enelow, 1988. "A methodology for testing a new spatial model of elections," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 22(4), pages 347-364, December.
    7. Jamie L. Carson & Ryan D. Williamson, 2018. "Candidate ideology and electoral success in congressional elections," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 176(1), pages 175-192, July.
    8. Gersbach, Hans, 1998. "Communication skills and competition for donors," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 3-18, February.
    9. Tanner, Thomas Cole, 1994. "The spatial theory of elections: an analysis of voters' predictive dimensions and recovery of the underlying issue space," ISU General Staff Papers 1994010108000018174, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.

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