Recent research on electoral behavior has suggested that policy-informed vote choices are frequently obstructed by uncertainty about party positions. Given the significance of clear and distinct party platforms for meaningful epresentation, several studies have investigated the conditions under which parties are perceived as ambiguous. Yet, previous studies have often relied on measures of perceived positional ambiguity that are fairly remote from the concept, casting doubt on their substantive conclusions. The present contribution introduces a statistical model for estimating a comprehensive measure of perceived ambiguity that incorporates the two principal factors: non-positions and positional inconsistency. The two-faces model employs issue perceptions in an item response framework to explicitly parametrize the perceived ambiguity of party positions. The model is applied to data from the Chapel Hill Expert Survey and subsequently associated with party characteristics that drive perceptions of party ambiguity. The results suggest (a) that there are notable differences between the proposed and competing measures, highlighting the need to be mindful of the intricacies of political information processing in research on perceptions of ambiguity and (b) that involuntary ambiguity might be an under-explored explanation for unclear party perceptions.

Authors: Dominic Nyhuis and Lukas F. Stoetzer