Although the concept of party valence figures in many studies of voting behavior, very few have measured it on the individual level, or investigated its sources in a variety of political contexts. This project addresses these deficiencies by assessing the extent to which individual valence assessments are affected by a number of long- and short-term factors. The former refer to the left–right policy distance between parties and respondents as well as their locations relative to the center of the left-right spectrum. The latter include media assessments of political parties prior to an election, as well as the state of the economy. Using data from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems, this dissertation reveals a strong relationship between the long-term factors rooted in a person’s position relative to a party across a wide variety of political contexts. Despite the small number of available cases, some patterns of media influence on valence judgments have been detected. The state of the economy is shown to influence individuals’ valence assessments of political parties; this effect varies depending on the person’s position relative to the party. The final data chapter reveals a strong relationship between individuals’ valence judgments and their vote choice, thereby demonstrating the validity of the valence measure developed in this dissertation. Furthermore, the results show that one’s position relative to a party influences vote choice through shaping one’s valence judgments of that party (i.e., valence serves as a mediator variable between positional factors and vote choice). The dissertation concludes with a discussion of its research contributions into the literature on party valence, as well as possible future research projects that could be developed based on its findings.
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Thesis advisor: Warwick, Paul
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