This paper brings together two bodies of work that where heretofore separate. First, work on the credibility of policy shifts. Second, the literature on rationalization and motivated reasoning. We fielded a novel survey experiment in the United States to examine the conditions under which citizens are more likely to believe that a candidate has actually changed positions on an issue. Our data reveals an important phenomenon in voter integration of campaign communications: preference-mediated partisan motivation. Partisans process a candidate’s stance through an interaction between the voter’s partisan allegiance and their own policy preference. They update more when a co-partisan candidate moves closer to them. The opposite pattern emerges with the other party’s candidates: partisans tend to be more receptive if the candidate moves away from them.

This paper analyzes how a party’s policy statements affect voters’ perceptions of where the party stands on a given issue. I argue that voters do not take a party’s statements at face value because these messages can be a strategic tool to win elections. I have tested this argument with a survey experiment fielded in the United Kingdom that exposes respondents to Conservative and Labour Party statements on immigration and the National Health Service. I report evidence that popular statements tend to have a weaker effect on voter perceptions than unpopular ones. This finding suggests a paradox: the more a party needs to change its reputation in order to gain votes, the stronger the voters’ skepticism.

This paper examines whether the decision to join a coalition government affects a party’s ideological reputation. We present a novel argument that claims that joining a coalition is only consequential for the party’s image when the party enters a coalition that was not considered to be the most natural choice. In other words, if party A and party B have always been in coalitions together, the fact that they decide to form that coalition again should not change voters’ beliefs. Only if party A breaks that pattern and joins party C in a coalition will that affect voters’ perceptions. To test our argument, we employ a sophisticated empirical strategy that combines three approaches: observational cross-country data, a panel survey, and a quasi-experimental design. Evidence from all data sources supports our novel theoretical argument.

This paper analyzes the conditions in which voters believe party platforms. I argue that voters find platforms that can help the party obtain more votes to be less informative about the party’s ideology. This hypothesis is tested with both mainstream and niche parties in Western Europe. I show that for mainstream parties, which have vote-seeking incentives to appear ideologically moderate, voters discount centrist manifestos. With respect to niche parties, which tend to lose support if they moderate, voters discount extreme platforms. These findings have implications for democratic representation, party competition and electoral volatility.

This paper claims that leader changes open a window of opportunity for parties to shape their policy reputation. We argue that the appointment of a new leader increases the credibility of party policy messages. As a result, voters are more willing to listen to party rhetoric and therefore develop perceptions about the party’s ideological position that are more in line with the party’s discourse. We provide empirical evidence based on mainstream parties in Western Europe between 1979 and 2012. 

Election campaigns are normatively expected to provide political parties with the opportunity to publicize their views on policy issues. This article analyzes whether the content of parties’ campaign manifestos actually influences voter perceptions of where parties stand ideologically. Focusing on Western European parties between 1971 and 2010, I show that the content of parties’ policy rhetoric does affect voter expectations. This paper thus offers a more reassuring conclusion about mass-elite linkages than previous studies.

This paper examines ex-post rationalization in how survey respondents place political parties on issue scales. Comparing Spanish national and regional parties, we uncover how differences in the structure of political competition across party system shapes the intensity of rationalization in survey-based measures of party positions.


This paper addresses the question of why, even in consolidated democracies, corrupt incumbents are frequently re-elected by their constituents. While the literature tends to attribute tolerance for corruption to a lack of credible information about incumbent wrongdoing or to generalized voter cynicism, we highlight how voter responses depend on the economic externalities of corruption.


  • Horizontal Accountability and Incumbent Rent-Seeking: Political Budget Cycles in
    Spanish Municipalities.
     (In progress)
  • Do Federal and State Audits Increase Compliance with a Grant Program to Improve Municipal Infrastructure?. With Ana de la O and Fernando Martel. (In progress)
  • Rouba Mas Faz? An Experimental Test of the Competence-Corruption Trade-off. With Jordi Muñoz and Peter Esaiasson. (In progress)
  • Economic Integration and Mass Political Behavior. With Ignacio Jurado. (In progress)
  • The Ideological Orientation of European and US Newspapers.. With Joshua Clinton. (In progress)