Economic Performance and Center-Periphery Conflicts in Party Competition
The reasons pushing parties to politicize non-economic dimensions of competition, and the consequences of this for the representation of public opinion,are badly understood in the party competition literature. This is a pressing research gap, especially given the recent and signiﬁcant re-activation of territorial or center-periphery conﬂicts in Western Europe. In this paper, we ﬁrst argue that bad macro-economic performance increases the incentives of incumbent parties to deviate the attention towards territorial conﬂicts in order to avoid electoral punishment. Secondly, we also argue that the opposite is true for public opinion: itis precisely during periods of bad economic performance and high economic concern,when the electorate moves away from territorial interests. The dynamic emerging from our ﬁndings is thus far from an ideal bottom-up representation: elites divert the attention towards territorial conﬂicts to mask periods of poor economic performance,which is precisely when public opinion is less interested in center-periphery issues.We validate our claims using text analysis of party attention in Spain, and time series models covering four electoral cycles (1996-2011).