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Left-Right Ideology as an Inferential Device in Multiparty Systems: Can Citizens Overcome Low Information by Imputing Parties' Policy Positions?

Journal article
Authors Stefan Dahlberg
Eelco Harteveld
Published in Electoral Studies
Volume 42
Pages 175-187
ISSN 0261-3794
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Political Science
Pages 175-187
Language en
Keywords Political knowledge; Heuristics; Party positions; Ideology
Subject categories Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)


This study examines the extent to which knowledge about parties' ideological Left–Right positions can be used schematically by voters to impute these parties' stances on specific policy issues. Can Left–Right familiarity help citizens, whose knowledge of political and societal issues is often limited, to overcome the low information problem? Based on two Swedish panel studies, we show that - in contrast to the American two-party context – the least knowledgeable voters benefit most from using inferences based on parties' Left–Right locations. The effectiveness of schema-based deduction is thus dependent on its place within a given political culture. In the Swedish multiparty context, the Left–Right dimension is meaningful for most voters, and can be used schematically to partly alleviate a lack of knowledge.

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