When dimensions collide: The electoral success of issue entrepreneurs

Catherine E. de Vries, Sara B. Hobolt

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Theories of issue evolution and issue manipulation suggest that 'political losers' in the party system can advance their position by introducing a new issue dimension. According to these theories, a strategy of issue entrepreneurship, that is the attempt to restructure political competition by mobilizing a previously non-salient issue dimension, allows political losers to attract new voters and reap electoral gains. In this study, we examine the extent to which these expectations hold by exploring issue entrepreneurial strategies of political parties when applied to the issue of European integration. Using multi-level modelling to analyse European Election Study data, we first show that voters are more likely to cast their ballot for parties that are losers on the extant dimension based on concerns related to European integration. Secondly, a time-series cross-sectional analysis demonstrates that parties that employ an issue entrepreneurial strategy are more successful electorally. Put differently, voters are responsive to the issue entrepreneurial strategies of parties. These findings have important implications for our understanding of party competition and electoral behaviour in multi-party systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)246-268
Number of pages23
JournalEuropean Union Politics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • European integration
  • issue entrepreneurship
  • issue evolution
  • issue voting
  • party competition


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