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  • Cited by 77
Cambridge University Press
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September 2017
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Using decades of public opinion data from the US, UK, Australia, Germany and Canada, and distinguishing between three concepts - issue ownership, performance and generalised competence - Green and Jennings show how political parties come to gain or lose 'ownership' of issues, how they are judged on their performance in government across policy issues and how they develop a reputation for competence (or incompetence) over a period in office. Their analysis tracks the major events causing people to re-evaluate party reputations and the costs of governing which cause electorates to punish parties in power. They reveal why, when and how these movements in public opinion matter to elections. The implications are important for long-standing debates about performance and partisanship, and reveal that public opinion about party and governing competence is, to a great extent, the product of major shocks and predictable dynamics.


‘The Politics of Competence provides a compelling analysis of party competence – its causes, electoral consequences and political significance. This landmark study draws together disparate theories, assembles a prodigious amount of data and uses advanced statistical techniques to provide a fascinating account of the shifting relationship between parties and their electorates. Sophisticated, yet also accessible to the general reader, this book instantly becomes the gold standard in studies of party competence.'

John Bartle - University of Essex

‘Central to theories of how voters evaluate parties are ideas that one party is better able than another to handle a given issue. But how do voters develop these evaluations? And what is the role of actual performance of a party in government? In this theoretically ambitious, empirically rich and truly comparative book, Green and Jennings break new ground. They show that parties regularly gain and lose ‘ownership' on particular issues, that partisanship strongly affects perceptions of performance, that governments inexorably lose support and reputations for competence, and that they develop a new theoretical perspective towards how voters evaluate parties. Rich with data, comparative in approach and equally theoretical as empirical, this book sets a new standard in the fields of issue ownership on a par with previous works by Donald Stokes, John Petrocik and William Riker.'

Frank R. Baumgartner - University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and co-author of The Politics of Information (2015)

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