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A Utility Function Analysis of Competing Models of Party Support


  • Harold D. Clarke
  • Euel Elliott
  • Barry J. Seldon


V. O. Key's reward-punishment model has long dominated scholarly thinking about the political economy of party support. The model's popularity persists despite anomalous empirical evidence and challenges by issue-priority theorists who criticize the model for ignoring differences in the policy choices offered by competing parties. This paper argues that the reward-punishment and issue-priority perspectives are encompassed by utility function models of voter decision-making. Such models account for party support dynamics that are perverse according to reward-punishment assumptions. They also provide a theoretical rationale for specifying lagged economic effects in party support functions, while suggesting difficulties in doing so. The performance of utility function models is illustrated under varying assumptions about economic conditions and a voter's knowledge of them.

Suggested Citation

  • Harold D. Clarke & Euel Elliott & Barry J. Seldon, 1994. "A Utility Function Analysis of Competing Models of Party Support," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 6(3), pages 289-305, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:jothpo:v:6:y:1994:i:3:p:289-305

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    Cited by:

    1. Nannestad, Peter & Paldam, Martin, 1997. "The grievance asymmetry revisited: A micro study of economic voting in Denmark,1986-1992," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 81-99, February.


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