Choice versus sensitivity: Party reactions to public concerns


Michael D. McDonald, Department of Political Science, Binghamton University (SUNY), Binghamton, NY 13902, USA
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Abstract.  Most discussions of democratic theory assume that parties should offer clear choices to voters but also show themselves sensitive to public concerns. Under certain circumstances, however, party convergence on these may preclude electoral choice, thus creating conflict between two democratic ‘goods’. We examine possible tradeoffs between choice and responsiveness, and see which actually occur in 16 postwar democracies. Party policy positions turn out to be more strongly related to party ideology than popular concerns, thus privileging differentiation and choice over sensitivity and responsiveness. Implications for democratic theory and practice are considered.