How Economic Integration Affects Party Issue Emphases

Dalston Ward, Jeong Hyun Kim, Matthew Graham, Margit Tavits

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


The economic dimension has typically been considered the primary dimension of political party competition. However, parties often rally voters on the basis of non-economic issues. In this article, we argue that integration into global markets and into the European Union (EU) constrains parties’ abilities to credibly differentiate themselves on economic issues. Given these constraints, and voters’ awareness of them, parties activate other non-economic issues along which to compete. Using data across 49 countries between 1961 and 2010, this study shows that increased economic integration is associated with increased emphasis on non-economic issues during election campaigns. This effect persists over time and remains robust to a number of alternative explanations and modeling strategies. We also explore the proposed causal mechanisms and show that integration is indeed associated with convergence of party positions on economic issues and that all types of parties—not just new and niche parties—respond to integration by politicizing non-economic issues. Finally, we leverage the latest round of EU enlargement to causally identify the effect of integration on party strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1227-1259
Number of pages33
JournalComparative Political Studies
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Sept 7

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Margit Tavits would like to acknowledge funding from the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, © The Author(s) 2015.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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