There is a discernable mood in macro-level public evaluations of party issue competence. This paper argues that voters use heuristics to transfer issue competence ratings of parties between issues, therefore issue competence ratings move in common. Events, economic shocks and the costs of governing reinforce these shared dynamics. These expectations are analysed using issue competence data in Britain 1950–2008, and using Stimson's dyad ratios algorithm to estimate ‘macro-competence’. Effects on macro-competence are found for events and economic shocks, time in government, leader ratings, economic evaluations and partisanship, but macro-competence also accounts for unique variance in a model of party choice. The article presents an aggregate-level time-series measure to capture the long-term dynamics of ‘valence’.