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Salience-Based Congruence Between Parties & their Voters: The Swiss Case


  • This research has been supported by the European Science Foundation (ESF)'s HumVib EUROCORES Scheme. We thank Jane Mansbridge for earlier discussion of the topic, and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments. We are grateful to Whitney Kathryn Isaacs for editorial assistance.


Policy congruence between parties and their voters is a prerequisite for the latter's representation. Related research typically focuses on the left-right dimension. We contribute to this literature by conceiving the alignment between citizens and political elites as congruence on issues that individual citizens consider important (salience-based congruence). Furthermore, we approach salience from the citizen's perspective and measure it at the individual level. Based on data from the Swiss Election Study (2007), we demonstrate that the assessment of party representation changes once we take salience into account. Policy congruence on salient issues is high and niche parties perform better than mainstream parties. Our arguments and findings about the role personal issue salience plays at the individual and party levels have important repercussions for contemporary debates on representation and policy congruence.