Harmel, Robert and Somer, Zeynep and Smith, Jason. (2005) "Effects of 'Europe' on national party issue profiles: assessment and explanation of convergence within party families". In: UNSPECIFIED, Austin, Texas. (Unpublished)
Voters and party activists are drawn to a particular political party, at least in part, because of its ideological/issue profile. Hence, "changing" that profile could result in losing current members and/or voters. Precisely because a party can not assume that such change would be cost-free, parties are generally assumed to undertake it reluctantly. And yet, there is ample evidence that parties do change their profiles, both in their positions and in the relative degrees to which they emphasize particular issues, and sometimes the changes are dramatic. Why, in the face of good reasons for standing pat, do parties change? In addition to possible internal factors, such as changes in who controls the party’s own positions of power, recent literature has focused a good deal of attention on pressures and opportunities from outside the party (i.e., “environmental” factors). (E.g., see Harmel and Svasand 1997; Demker 1997; Panebianco 1988; Deschouwer 1992) With all of the attention that has been given to environmental explanation for party change, with special attention devoted to the parties of established European democracies, surprisingly little has been focused on possible impact of what might well be considered the most dramatic recent change in the shared environment of those parties: the development of “Europe,” both institutionally and in the minds of its people. It is our purpose in this paper to add to the small but important literature which has developed on this subject, by directly and empirically investigating the extent to which European integration and institutionalization have contributed to convergence and altered emphases within several major party families covering the fifteen more established member states of the European Union. To what extent has the development of “Europe” contributed to altered issue profiles of national parties? That is the question which drives this paper.
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