After defeat: How governing parties respond to electoral loss

Yotam Margalit*, Tara Slough, Michael M. Ting

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How do governing parties respond in terms of ideological positioning when voted out of office? We study both theoretically and empirically the factors that shape parties' responses following a loss. Studying national elections in advanced industrialized democracies over the past 70 years, we show that parties tend to counter their pre-election shifts, and do so particularly strongly following defeat. The extent of these ideological shifts is more limited in parties with a larger selectorate voting on the party leadership. Moreover, we find that subsequent to loss, parties are less likely to run on a centrist platform. Notably, shifting away from the center is associated with a higher probability of returning to power. We then introduce a dynamic model of party leadership selection and platform positioning. The model produces patterns of ideological positions over time that are consistent with our empirical findings.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPolitical Science Research and Methods
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Political parties
  • ideological positioning
  • intraparty governance
  • leadership selection
  • selectorate


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