Opposition party policy shifts in response to no-confidence motions



No-confidence motions (NCMs) are attempts by opposition parties to publicise the government's failings in a salient policy arena, and previous research has shown that they often negatively affect citizens' evaluations of governing parties' competence and damage their electoral prospects. Yet currently there is a lack of understanding of how opposition parties respond ideologically to these NCMs. It is argued in this article that opposition parties should distance themselves from the government challenged by NCMs to show that they are different from the incompetent government and to compete for the votes that the government is likely to lose. Using a sample of 19 advanced democracies from 1970–2007, empirical evidence is presented that NCMs encourage political parties to move their positions away from the government's position, especially in the presence of reinforcing negative signals about government performance. These results have important implications for our understanding of opposition party policy change, for the economic voting literature, and for the spatial and valence models of party competition.