A typical assumption of electoral models of party competition is that parties adopt policy positions so as to maximize expected vote share. Here we use Euro-barometer survey data and European elite-study data from 1979 for the Netherlands and Germany to construct a stochastic model of voter response, based on multinomial probit estimation. For each of these countries, we estimate a pure spatial electoral voting model and a joint spatial model. The latter model also includes individual voter and demographic characteristics. The pure spatial models for the two countries quite accurately described the electoral response as a stochastic function of party positions. We use these models to perform a thought experiment so as to estimate the expected vote maximizing party positions. We go on to propose a model of internal party decision-making based both on pre-election electoral estimation and post-election coalition bargaining. This model suggests why the various parties in the period in question did not adopt vote maximizing positions. We argue that maximizing expected vote will not, in general, be a rational party strategy in multiparty political systems which are based on proportional representation.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/kevin_quinn/26/