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Rationality of Irrationality

Political Determinants and Effects of Party Position Blurring

Subjects: Political Science, Political Behavior and Public Opinion, Political Communication
Paperback : 9780472055531, 244 pages, 40 charts, 29 tables, 6 x 9, September 2022
Hardcover : 9780472075539, 244 pages, 40 charts, 29 tables, 6 x 9, September 2022
Open Access : 9780472902910, 244 pages, 40 charts, 29 tables, 6 x 9, September 2022
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Ambiguous party positions distract voters from thinking about the issues

Table of contents

List of Tables
List of Figures
List of Abbreviations
1. Introduction
2. A Theory of Position Blurring
3. Measuring Position Blurring
4. Position Blurring and Voter Behavior
5. Issue Disadvantage, Party Competition Environment, and Issue Avoidance
6. Radical Right-Wing Parties’ Position Blurring on the Economy    
7. Social Democratic Parties’ Position Blurring on Immigration
8. Concluding Remarks


Citizens in democracies complain that political parties’ positions on major issues are too ambiguous for them to confidently understand. Why is party position ambiguity so common? Are party positions ambiguous because political parties fail in forming clear policies or because they deliberately blur their positions? Rationality of Irrationality argues that political parties are motivated to strategically blur their position on an issue when they struggle with a certain disadvantage in the issue. Specifically, political parties present an ambiguous position when their own supporters are divided in their stances on the issue. A political party also blurs position stances when voters do not acknowledge that the party has the ability and integrity to solve problems related to the issue. Political parties blur their position in these cases because ambiguous party positions divert voters’ attention from the issue. Voters support a political party whose policy positions on major issues are close to their own stances. However, voters cannot confidently and exactly estimate party positions on an issue when they are only ambiguous.

Kyung Joon Han is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Rationality of Irrationality is a highly promising book on position blurring as a partisan strategy and how voters respond to this strategy. Han expands on this recent wave of literature on position blurring with original ideas and inspiring analyses. A must-read for anyone interested in party strategies and their electoral effects.”
—Christoffer Green-Pedersen, Aarhus University

- Christoffer Green-Pedersen

“For a long time, political scientists ignored the fact that parties often strategically take ambiguous positions. Based on cross-national analysis and case studies of radical-right and social democratic parties, this book provides a much-needed, encompassing reassessment of the way parties can use position blurring to increase their appeal among voters.”
—Markus Wagner, University of Vienna

- Markus Wagner

“This is a great book for all political scientists eager to better understand how parties strategically act to ensure their vote share. Politicians and party elites could learn from the evidence here to think about their own choices.”

—Sean McGraw, Boston College

- Sean McGraw