1The 2007 presidential campaign in France saw the environment making its way onto the agenda of most of the candidates. In particular, on several occasions during the campaign, Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal both addressed the subject in their speeches, and platforms published in the press.  Two months before the first round of voting, they had both signed Nicolas Hulot’s Ecological Pact, which for them represented both a guarantee that this familiar television personality would not present himself as a candidate, and a way to bolster their environmentalist credentials in the eyes of the voter.
2This encroachment of environmental issues into an electoral campaign is not unique to France. Since the beginning of the 1970s, Western party systems, historically structured by the four cleavages highlighted by Seymour M. Lipset and Stein Rokkan,  have been upset by the emergence of new political issues dividing the traditional political organizations and by the development of new families of parties. On the one hand, the politicization of questions related to immigration, the opening of borders, and globalization has been successfully exploited by parties on the far right of the political spectrum that have become firmly established on the political terrain of many countries, such that some authors speak of a cleavage between identity and cosmopolitanism.  In addition, increasing concerns related to pollution, the threat to biodiversity, the exhaustion of natural resources, and the challenges of environmental protection have been reflected, in many countries, in the rise of “green” parties criticizing the productivist development of advanced industrial societies – in respect of which, once again, some authors believe that the opposition between ecology and productivism has become so definitive as to produce a new cleavage. 
3Many authors have studied the development and performance of the parties of the far right and environmental parties in detail,  but studies of the reaction of the established parties – particularly the major governing parties that alternately control national executive power – have been much rarer. As Neil Carter writes with regard to the environment, “While every aspect of green party development seems to have been scrutinized, there has been surprisingly little analysis of the impact of the environment on established political parties.”  However, the responses of the big parties to these changes are of crucial importance: these organizations have established their dominance on the basis of those traditional issues – such as government interventionism, the redistribution of wealth, or the separation of church and state – which are at the center of the traditional cleavages. Transformations linked to the politicization of new types of issues, such as the protection of the environment, pose a challenge to the big parties in several respects. Internally divided on these questions, which are ill-accommodated by traditional frameworks and ideology,  and not confident of being able to capitalize on these issues to persuade their voters, they open themselves to competition from new parties capable of reaching a far from negligible electorate. It is thus generally considered that the emergence of new types of conflict is to the detriment of the major governing parties  and that the long-term consequences of these transformations will depend in good part on the capacity of these parties to curb such conflicts.
4In the literature concerning the decision whether to address the new issues or not, two possible strategies are generally outlined. The first consists in addressing them in order to show the voters that one is concerned about these new problems, at the risk of legitimizing the challenges initially made by the green parties or the parties of the far right. The second, on the other hand, consists in avoiding these questions and wagering that they will fall off the political agenda (but at the risk of ceding ownership of positions shared by many voters to the small parties).
5This article contributes to the knowledge of the strategies of the major governing parties with regard to the transformation of the party agenda since the 1960s,  by analyzing their political responses to emerging conflicts over environmental issues. Through a statistical study of the electoral platforms of 58 major governing parties in the 20 OECD countries since the beginning of the 1960s,  it explains why these parties choose a strategy of appropriation, rather than avoidance, of environmental issues. The co-optation of environmental issues since the 1960s has not advanced to the same extent in all the major governing parties. How much space is granted to environmental issues is notably influenced by the political and ideological characteristics of the party itself and the characteristics of the country’s political system, especially the strength of the environmental party competitor. After presenting the theoretical framework of this article, inspired by theories of salience, I will develop a series of hypotheses that have been tested empirically. These findings will provide grounds for some thoughts on the sources of issue competition.
Theories of salience: between selective emphasis and issue co-optation
6This study takes as a starting point the theoretical developments in a broad current of the literature on the competition between parties: that of the theories of salience. An attentive reading of these works allows us to distinguish two potentially contradictory lessons concerning the responses of the major governing parties to the politicization of environmental issues. According to the strict sense of the concepts of “selective emphasis” and “issue ownership”, we would have to expect that the major governing parties would privilege their preferred themes and attempt to avoid environmental issues; on the contrary, work on “issue co-optation” suggests that the major governing parties should fight the environmental parties for ownership of environmental issues.
Selective emphasis and issue ownership
7Donald E. Stokes was the first to develop an approach to competition between parties based on issue salience, taking as a starting point the pioneering work of E. E. Schattschneider on the importance of the struggle for the control of attention.  Stokes starts from two postulates: the space of issues is not given, but is shaped by party strategies, and the majority of the issues present in the public debate are valence-issues, concerning which the various actors share the same goals, such as peace, unemployment, or the environment. Consequently, the competition between parties does not center on a confrontation between the parties’ antagonistic positions, but rather on the choice of the issues to be brought to the foreground. To better study issue competition, Stokes thus recommends trying to find the “different weights […] given different dimensions at different times”.  This line of investigation was taken up, expanded, and empirically tested by David Robertson,  then by Ian Budge and his colleagues.  According to them, parties compete on the basis of “selective emphasis”, rather than on that of “direct confrontation”:  parties foreground issues on which they are regarded as qualified or credible by the voters – e.g., taxes for the liberal parties, the welfare state for the social democratic parties. A broad research project, known as the Comparative Manifestos Project, was developed to study these strategies, measuring the attention given to various issues in the electoral platforms of western political parties since the end of the Second World War.
8A similar thesis underlies William H. Riker’s theory of “heresthetics” and his work on the manipulation of issues,  as well as work by Edward G. Carmines and James A. Stimson, who refine the theoretical conception of issue dynamics on the agenda.  Manyother specialists in party politics use the term agenda, which comes from public policy.  The crux of political competition thus lies in the capacity of parties to impose the issues favorable to themselves upon the agenda. When they succeed in doing so, these parties become, in the voters’ eyes, the “owners” of these issues.
9With the concept of issue ownership, John R. Petrocik  refers to the fact that voters identify particular political parties with particular issues. From this point of view, the space granted to each issue is likely to reflect the party’s degree of credibility  and specialization on this issue.  We should expect that they will foreground the issues on which they are regarded as credible, competent, and different from the other parties by the voters, while trying to keep the other issues off the agenda.
10In short, classical theories of salience allow us to predict that environmental issues will be the prerogative of the green parties, while the major governing parties will be inclined to avoid them as much as possible. However, more recent studies indicate that under certain conditions, parties may be forced, either by the unfolding of events external to the party competition,  or by other political parties, to include an issue in their discourse, even if it is not directly associated with them.
Issue co-optation and issue overlap
11Several recent works have shown that ownership of the issues is never acquired once and for all, and, furthermore, that it is routinely contested by other parties. As Sylvain Brouard and his colleagues write, “if a party lays claim to an issue and is able to garner an electoral benefit from this ‘property’, rival parties will be strongly driven to contest the legitimacy of the ‘owner’ in order to avoid granting the party a monopoly over the framing and orientation of the issue, and to deflect criticism for having ignored the subject”.  Thus, many works use the concepts of “issue uptake” [reprise d’enjeux],  of “issue convergence” [convergence des enjeux] or of “issue trespassing” [empiètement des enjeux],  and call attention to “issue overlap” [superposition des enjeux], the overlap of electoral priorities among political parties competing within the same system.  This is the case of the model developed by Bonnie Meguid to analyze the treatment of environmental and immigration issues in French and British party debates. The author demonstrates that the established parties try to contest the green parties’ issue ownership of the environment and the far-right parties on questions related to immigration.  Existing studies on environmental politics also agree on the fact that this theme is not ignored but taken up by the established parties. With a few exceptions,  the major governing parties have certainly sought to exclude it from the political debate and to dispute its legitimacy as an electoral issue in the 1960s and 1970s, but several comparative studies,  or studies centered on the Australian,  British,  and French cases,  suggest that these avoidance strategies did not last.
Understanding shifts in the attention given to the environment by the major governing parties
12Explaining the place reserved for the environment in party discourses entails a reflection on the conditions that encourage the major governing parties to approach or, on the contrary, to avoid this theme. This article will concentrate on two broad types of factors: ideological characteristics and the party system, assuming that the environment will have a greater importance on the left than on the right, and that this will be greater to the extent that the environmental parties have managed to capture a significant share of the vote in electoral contests.
A left-wing theme?
13It may be expected that parties located on the left of the political spectrum will be more inclined to talk about the protection of the environment for three reasons, stemming both from ideological and electoral considerations. In the first place, the definition and framing of new issues substantially affect the way in which they can be absorbed by existing lines of conflict,  such as the left-right axis, and thus the ease with which they can be inserted into a party’s sales pitch. In the case of the environment, the majority of the framings in use fix on public intervention, whether via public expenditure or the implementation of new regulations limiting environmental pollution,  a framing that makes this theme more compatible with the ideologies located at the left of the political spectrum.
14The greater affinity of left-wing parties for the environment may also be the result of the reality of the environmental movement in the majority of European countries. Historically, the political entrepreneurs – associations, social movements, thinkers, individuals, etc. – which came to oppose productivism, to defend the environment, and to place these issues on the agenda, were very often situated on the left.  This type of proximity is clearly likely to weigh in a decisive manner on the strategies of the major governing parties. 
15Moreover, the public opinion polls show that the voters on the left traditionally grant more importance to environmental issues than voters on the right,  a trend that has been largely reinforced since the 1960s.  Voter pressure on the major governing parties to take the environment into account should thus be stronger for the social democratic parties than for the conservative or liberal parties.
16This phenomenon has necessarily been reinforced by the programmatic transformation of the European social democratic parties since the 1980s, which led the majority of them to convert to the principles of the market economy.  If it is no longer possible for these parties to distinguish themselves from their conservative adversaries on the basis of economics, the environment, conversely, constitutes an innovative theme, enabling them to appear progressive in the eyes of voters without disavowing their new macroeconomic direction.
17There are thus good reasons why left-wing parties appear more attentive to the environment than right-wing parties. If there are still some counterexamples in France  or the United Kingdom,  existing studies tend to corroborate this hypothesis: the position of the parties on the left-right axis is a good predictor of the salience of environmental issues in the platforms of the established parties.  If left-wing parties have more incentives to seize on environmental questions than do right-wing parties, the emergence of a new theme, the decision to invest in it, and the structuring of a political platform on the issue are not accomplished overnight.  The expected distinction between left-wing and right-wing parties could thus crystallize only in due time, with a more and more markedly environmentalist discourse on the left.
18H1a. The more the major governing parties are situated to the left of the political chessboard, the greater the attention they tend to give to environmental questions.
19H1b. The difference between left-wing and right-wing parties in the attention which they devote to the environment tends to increase with time.
A shifting balance of power depending on the threat posed by the environmentalists?
20The second set of factors explored by this article concerns not the characteristics of each party taken individually, but, at the level of the party systems, what strategies are prompted by the strength of the environmental parties. The theories of salience reviewed above suggest that parties have a strategic interest in foregrounding their preferred themes and ignoring the issues of their competitors, but that this strategy of selective emphasis is not always possible. Consequently, the ability of the major governing parties to keep the environment off the electoral agenda depends on the balance of power vis-à-vis the green parties, and thus on the “threat” represented by these parties. This article hypothesizes that this threat itself is largely determined by the characteristics of the electoral and party systems.
21As Peter Mair explains, the electoral system is “the most obvious factor of relevance in any discussion of the preconditions of small party success”:  the major governing parties, whose essential objective consists in maximizing the number of votes and posts,  are likely to feel more strongly menaced by the environmental parties when the threshold of eligibility is low, i.e., when representatives are elected to the lower chamber by proportional polling in large districts. Conversely, majoritarian systems dissuade electors from voting on the basis of issues considered to be more marginal.  Thus, the hypothesis here is that the major governing parties will pay greater attention to environmental issues in electoral systems with a low threshold of eligibility.  Gemenis’ work  has already produced results congruent with this hypothesis, even if the predictive capacity of the proportionality of the electoral system does not seem extremely powerful.
22However, the perception of a threat posed by the green parties is not only hypothetical: it also reflects the effective success of the environmental parties, in terms of votes as well as in terms of seats, as well as their capacity to influence the formation of governments. Several hypotheses can be formulated in this regard.
23On the one hand, when the major governing parties decide whether or not to invest in environmental issues, they are likely to consider the characteristics of the arena of party competition in which they operate, and above all, of the existence and strength of green parties – a crucial factor, systematically taken into account by studies analyzing the uptake of environmental issues by the major governing parties. Studies based on comparative quantitative information frankly do not confirm this hypothesis  in the slightest degree.  However, it is corroborated by several case studies. Sainteny, for example, demonstrates that the attention given to environmental protection by the major French parties often reflects the potential gains that the environmentalists seem able to expect in the upcoming election (pre-election co-optation) or that they do in fact obtain (post-electoral co-optation).  Boy reiterates these conclusions when he affirms that the major French parties are concerned with the environment only when “competition – even modest – from the Green Party leads the Socialist Party to shift its political platform so as to capture a fraction of an electorate controlling the balance of the election in an electoral contest between the left and the environmentalists”.  Similarly, in the British case, Meguid and Carter show that the success of the Green Party in the European elections of 1989 catalyzed the uptake of environmental issues both by members of the Labour Party and the Conservatives.  These observations show that it would be premature to abandon the hypothesis that major governing parties engage with environmental questions when threatened by environmental parties obtaining good electoral results or securing seats.
24However, the effect of environmental party gains on the attention paid by the major parties to the environment may be disrupted, in the intermediate term, by two mechanisms. First of all, it is quite likely that a threshold effect will manifest itself after a certain level of attention to the subject is reached: even on the assumption of an especially threatening environmental party, the major governing parties cannot indefinitely increase the share of their platform devoted to the environment, since this would be to the detriment of other issues which they cannot afford to neglect. Moreover, in the event that investing in environmental issues does not make it possible for the major governing parties to deny entry to an environmentalist competitor, we could expect this strategy to be abandoned. All in all, while we might hypothesize an uptake of environmental themes in response to the development of the green parties, it is possible that this strategy would give way to another, consisting instead of avoiding these themes.
25Lastly, the potential influence of the green parties does not depend solely on their electoral impact, but on their capacity for entering into governmental coalitions, as indeed they have in France, Finland, Germany, Italy, or Belgium. Engaged in a coalition with the greens, the major governing parties – social democratic parties, for the most part – must “delegate” the environment to their partner and give less attention to this theme. This then enables me to posit the following set of hypotheses relative to the systemic conditions under which the major governing parties evolve:
26H2a. The more the electoral system supports the access of green parties to parliament, the more the major governing parties will tend to pay attention to environmental issues.
27H2b. The greater the electoral success of the green party, the more the attention of the major governing parties to environmental issues will tend to increase.
28H2c. The major governing parties will tend to give more attention to the environment when environmentalists are present in the outgoing parliament.
29H2d. The major governing parties will tend to give less attention to the environment when they exit a coalition with a green party.
30H2e. The influence of the electoral success of the green party on the attention given to environmental issues will tend to decrease with time.
31The rest of this article attempts to test these hypotheses empirically. To this end, I created a database tabulating the indicators corresponding to each hypothesis, covering a sufficiently broad period and a sufficiently large number of parties to highlight the relationships of interest in a statistically robust manner.  I collected adequate data on 58 major governing parties present in 20 OECD countries  over the period running from 1961 to 2010.  For each of these parties, I have information pertaining to several elections – between a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 18. This is a time-series cross-sectional database: it combines the presence of several units (parties) and the evolution of these units over time (at the moment of each election), for a total of 646 observations (parties*elections). 
32The collected data, largely drawn from two big comparative databases, the Comparative Manifestos Project (CMP) and the Comparative Political Dataset (CPD), make it possible to measure all of the active variables in my hypotheses: the salience of the environment in electoral platforms, but also on the position of the parties on the left-right axis, the proportionality of the electoral system, and the electoral success of the green parties.
33The dependent variable is the salience of the environment in the electoral platforms of the major governing parties at the time of each legislative election. I have been able to operationalize this variable thanks to the CMP data,  which divides each electoral platform into “quasi-sentences”, units of argumentation which may be shorter than a sentence; the contents of these quasi-sentences are then classified according to a system of 56 categories (Welfare State, Law and Order, European Community/Union, etc.),  allowing me to estimate the percentage of attention given to each category by each party within each of its platforms. Two categories concern the protection of the environment: the first category, “per501”, is titled “Environmental Protection” and characterizes all the quasi-sentences referring to “General policies in favor of protecting the environment, fighting climate change, and other “green” policies. For instance: General preservation of natural resources; Preservation of countryside, forests, etc.; Protection of national parks; Animal rights. This category may include a wide variety of policies that have the unified goal of environmental protection.” 
34The second category, “per416”, titled “Anti-Growth Economy: Positive”, refers to “Favorable mentions of anti-growth politics”, “Rejection of the idea that all growth is good growth”, “Opposition to growth that causes environmental or societal harm”, and “Call[s] for sustainable economic development.”  The dependent variable used in the analyses is the Napierian logarithm of the sum of the percentages of categories per501 and per416, plus 1.  Using this logarithm makes it possible to standardize the distribution of the variable without distorting the analysis of the relation between the various independent variables and the dependent variable in its original state, expressed as a percentage.  The variable of attention to the environment varies between 0 and 3.3, with an average of 1.41.
35The independent variables have been collected so as to make it possible to test the two series of proposed hypotheses. The CMP data again proved useful for assessing the left-right positioning of each party. I constructed a variable allowing me to estimate this positioning by performing a logarithmic transformation of the CMP’s measure of left-right positioning,  which, in turn, was constructed by adding the percentages of attention to 13 themes associated with the left wing,  then subtracting the percentages of attention to 13 themes associated with the right wing.  This logarithmic transformation allows the elimination of a great number of zeros and to produce a more reliable measure of left-right positioning.  In order to test the hypothesis (H1b) of a differentiation between left and right increasing over the course of time, I created a variable measuring interaction between the position on the left-right axis and the year.
36I also collected a set of variables allowing me to test the hypotheses on the influence of the mode of polling and party system. The first variable gives the effective electoral threshold, allowing estimation of the degree of proportionality in the system. This measurement is derived from the idea that all electoral systems impose some form of threshold that a party must cross if it is to be represented in parliament. Sometimes, this threshold is explicit, as is the case of the 5% proportional balloting threshold in Germany, below which a party cannot enter parliament if it has not otherwise succeeded in electing one of its candidates in the first-round first-past-the-post system. Often, the threshold is not specified as such, but exists implicitly because of the size of the electoral districts (the number of eligible seats per district). In the case of Spain, for example, the low number of eligible seats in each district makes it difficult for the small parties to gain entry to Parliament, in spite of the fact that the polling is proportional. Lijphart  proposes the following formula to calculate this effective electoral eligibility threshold (SEE) (m is the magnitude of the district): SEE = 75%/(m + 1). The value of this indicator is compiled in the Democratic Electoral Systems Dataset:  it varies between 0.4 – very proportional – and 37.5 – far from proportional. Its average is 5.4.
37The three following variables account for the threat posed by the green parties during the election under consideration and their capacity to exercise influence: the first is the electoral success of these parties in the preceding legislative elections,  and the second takes the form of a dichotomic variable with a value of 1 if at least one environmentalist deputy was present in the outgoing parliament at the time of the election (and 0 in the opposite case); the third, also dichotomic, registers whether the party is exiting a coalition with the greens (1) or not (0). Finally, a variable measuring the interaction between the electoral success of the green parties in the preceding election and those of the current year was constructed in order to test the hypothesis (H2e) of a gradual erosion of the effect of this victory.
38In order to ensure the robustness of the relations observed, I also included several control variables, relating first to the year of publication of the platform, to the socio-economic situation (measured relative to the rates of unemployment and growth in the year preceding the election), to the environmental situation (by collecting data relating to the ecological impact of the country concerned in the year preceding the election ), and to an institutional dichotomic variable allowing us to discern whether the party exercised power before the election (1) or not (0).
39Caution is required when analyzing both longitudinal and transversal data.  Indeed, the very manner in which these data are constructed implies that not all observations are necessarily independent from one another. Here the analysis focuses on the strategies of one party with respect to environmental issues over time. Thus, the use of a standard linear regression model to analyze this type of data can generate considerably skewed estimates. This is why Nathaniel Beck and Jonathan N. Katz proposed a method for processing data in a panel that has become widely accepted in the field of political science, resting on three principles: inclusion of a “lagged” version of the dependent variable (at t-1); the use of panel-corrected standard errors; the use of a time variable and, possibly, dichotomic variables distinguishing the units of analysis (in this case, the parties).  The advisability of resorting to one or the other of these procedures (or to all) depends, as the two authors explain it, on the structure of the data to be analyzed.
40Following the recommendations of Beck and Katz, I used panel-corrected standard errors, clustered by parties, for a variable of time (which was already included in the starting hypotheses), and for fixed effects distinguishing the parties from one another.  I did not include lagged dependent variables in the model, insofar as a series of preliminary tests was able to demonstrate the absence of serial correlation of the dependent variable and the standard errors.  The decision to use fixed effects makes it possible to control for the impact of intrinsic and non-measurable differences by the aforementioned variables between the parties, a choice empirically confirmed by several tests. 
41Graph 1 represents the evolution of the average annual attention to the environment and illustrates the regular rise in the attention paid by parties to environmental themes since the beginning of the 1960s. The increase is not perfectly linear – it tended to sink slightly in the 1990s, picking up again thereafter – but the environment undoubtedly took on importance in the platforms of the major governing parties.
Change in the average annual attention paid to the environment
Change in the average annual attention paid to the environmentThis smooth curve has been drawn via nonparametric LOWESS regression to better highlight the trend present in the cloud of points.
42Nevertheless, the emergence of environmental issues is not a linear phenomenon common to all the major governing parties. The variations observed between parties and periods are explained, inter alia, by political conditions inherent in the party competition. Table 1 below presents the effects of the position of the parties on the left-right axis on the salience of the environment. Model 1 confirms hypothesis H1a according to which left-wing parties tend to address the environment more than right-wing parties: a displacement of one point to the left on the left-right scale (which varies, let us recall, between -3.5 and +3.5) corresponds to an increase in salience of the environment of about 25%, and this relation is significant at the 1% level.
The influence of the position of parties on the left-right axis
The influence of the position of parties on the left-right axisDependent variable: salience of the environment in the platforms of the major governing parties.
*** p < 0.01; ** p < 0.05; * p < 0.1; standard errors associated with the coefficients appear between brackets. N = 646. The coefficients represent a Generalized Least Squares (GLS) estimate; the standard errors are panel-corrected and grouped by party.
Observations: relative to the year, rate of growth, rate of unemployment, level of ecological impact and equality of institutional status, a change in position on the left-right axis of one unit (to the left) corresponds to a 25% increase in the salience of the environment. This relation is significant at the 1% level.
43The results also confirm hypothesis H1b, according to which the difference between left and right increases as the years pass. As model 2 demonstrates, the coefficient associated with the interaction variable Left-Right Position*Year is positive and significant at the 1% level. Thus, during the first year of the period studied (1963), the effect of the left-right position is insignificant, as indicated by the coefficient associated with the variable Position on the left-right axis.  On the other hand, the more time passes, the more the influence of left-right positioning on the salience of the environment grows: the effect of one point of displacement on the left-right axis is null in 1960, but corresponds to a 60% increase in the salience of the environment in 2010. This confirms the idea that the incorporation of the environment into the discourse of parties on the left only takes place gradually. This finding is represented in Graph 2.
Change over time in marginal effects predicted by position on the left-right axis and electoral success of the green party in the preceding election
Change over time in marginal effects predicted by position on the left-right axis and electoral success of the green party in the preceding electionThis graph is constructed on the basis of model 5 and represents the change in the marginal effect of the position on the left-right axis and the electoral success of the green party at the last elections as a function of time. The segments represent the confidence intervals of 90%.
Observations: The more time passes, the more the influence of the electoral success of the greens on the salience of the environment decreases, to the point of becoming negative after 1990. Conversely, the influence of the left-right position on the salience of the environment increases over time.
44It should be noted in passing that the effect of the change over time confirms what Graph 1 suggested: the temporal trend is very predictive, with an increase in salience of approximately 2% per annum on average. The other control variables have a negligible effect (this is the case for the rate of growth, ecological impact, and institutional status) or very weak (unemployment has a slightly positive effect on the salience of the environment, a result which may seem counter-intuitive, and which will be canceled out in the models which follow).
45The following models (Table 2), exploring the effect of the systemic variables, present a more ambiguous picture. The proportionality of the electoral system does not seem to have a significant influence on the salience of the environment in the electoral platforms of the major governing parties, contrary to the assumptions of hypothesis H2a. The coefficient associated with the effective electoral eligibility threshold is not significant: in the proportional systems, the major governing parties do not give more attention to the environment than in the majority systems.
The influence of the threat posed by environmental parties
The influence of the threat posed by environmental partiesDependent variable: salience of the environment in the platforms of the major governing parties.
*** p < 0.01; ** p < 0.05; * p < 0.1; standard errors associated with the coefficients appear between brackets.
N = 646. The coefficients represent a Generalized Least Squares (GLS) estimate; the standard errors are panel-corrected and grouped by party.
Observations: all things being equal, one point of increase in the electoral success of the greens corresponds to an 8% reduction in the salience of the environment. This relation is significant at the 1% level.
46Model 3 also indicates that the presence of environmentalist representatives in the parliament has an effect slightly significant (at the 10% level) on the salience of the environment in the platforms of the major governing parties. As assumed under hypothesis H2c, when green representatives sit in the parliament, the major governing parties devote greater space to the environment – 19% greater, to be precise. But this effect is no longer significant under model 4, which takes account of the interaction between time and the electoral success of the greens.
47In a more surprising manner, hypothesis H2b, which assumed that the electoral success of the green party in the preceding election would have a positive influence on the salience of the environment in the platforms of the major governing parties, is partially canceled out in Table 2. Under model 3, which does not take account of the interaction effects, the relation is even the opposite of what was anticipated. Indeed, according to this model, the electoral success of the greens in the preceding elections has a significant and negative net effect at the 1% level on the salience of the environment. An increase of one percentage point in this variable leads to a reduction in the salience of the environment of eight points. This result contradicts some of the studies relating to the treatment of environmental issues by the major governing parties,  but also some studies on issue competition, particularly those that suggest issue overlap or issue uptake. On the contrary, it ends up confirming the principal starting hypothesis of the theory of salience, that of selective emphasis, according to which political parties inevitably do not find it beneficial to foreground issues or themes which are very clearly associated with their competitors.
48It should be remembered however that this statistical result is due partly to the fact that I have controlled for the effect of change over time and the intrinsic differences between countries.  It is also explained by the expansion of the temporal scope of the database to include a period in which the green parties had not yet emerged, unlike the data used in studies by Gemenis  or Spoon and her colleagues,  for example. This expansion, which ought to be complemented by a geographical expansion to include non-European countries, leads to the fact that we know of many cases prior to the arrival of the Greens or characterized by the absence of green parties in which the salience of the environment is nonetheless significant. Such is the case, for example, of the major governing parties of Denmark, which granted considerable importance to the environment from the 1970s.  However, looking at the entire period, it is clear that when they are confronted with an advance on the part of the environmentalists, the major governing parties are tempted to respond by avoiding the theme of environmental protection.
49Model 4 makes it possible to understand that this situation, in which the major parties avoid addressing the environment when they are confronted with significant green parties, is the product of a change in strategies. Indeed, the impact of the electoral success of the green party on the salience of the environment decreases as the years pass. This result, which confirms hypothesis H4d, is presented in model 4. Thus, if the impact of the green parties on the salience of the environment is positive until the 1990s, it becomes negative afterwards. This inversion of the effect of the electoral success of environmental parties is significant at the 1% level. This result produces complications for current conceptions of issue overlap. Indeed, the behavior of the established parties with respect to the new theme at a given time t depends on the consequences of their strategy at t-1: at first, the established parties cannot surrender ownership of an issue to an electorally successful new party, so they increase the salience of the theme in their platform. If this proves effective in suppressing the development of the green party, these major parties will maintain a heightened attention to the new theme. If, on the contrary, this increase in salience does not prevent the green parties from developing, then the established parties will try to push the environment off the agenda, decreasing the salience of the issue in their platform.  Model 5 combines all of the variables. It explains 44% of the variance of the salience of the environment in the platforms of the major governing parties, a proportion higher than in the preceding models, demonstrating the cumulative nature of the effects under scrutiny. Most of the findings highlighted above hold up and are shown to be robust.
50If right-wing and left-wing parties were not differentiated at the beginning of the period in terms of the level of attention allocated to environmental issues, the divide between them grows over time. The marginal effect of displacing a change by one point (to the left on the left-right axis), null at the beginning of the period, approaches 70% in the 2010s. In the same way, the influence of the electoral success of environmental parties on the salience of the environment is not constant: clearly positive at the beginning of the period studied and up to the beginning of the 1990s, it decreases thereafter, even attaining negative values. In 2010, the one-point increase in the greens’ electoral success causes the salience of the environment to decrease by nearly 20%. We may also note a positive effect, all things being equal, of levels of proportionality.
51On the other hand, all things being equal, facing green representatives in parliament does not have a significant effect, while participating in a coalition with environmentalists still has a slightly significant negative effect on the salience of the environment. Also let us note that the effect of the proportionality of the electoral system on the salience of the environment becomes significant and negative, as expected, when all variables are integrated into the model.
52Finally, when we compare model 5 with the preceding models, the effect of the control variables is almost unchanged. The variable for the year, which accounts for change over time, retains a positive and strongly significant coefficient, but growth, unemployment, ecological impact, and institutional status do not have an effect on the place granted to the environment by the major governing parties.
54The goal of this article has been to evaluate how the major governing parties, which were structured around issues and cleavages unfamiliar with environmental problems, have reacted to the threat posed by the appearance of competitors focused on the defense of the environment. To answer this question, this article has drawn on the literature relating to issue competition. It was a question of determining which choice the major parties had made between the two strategies available to them: avoidance and uptake. Did their chosen strategy involve avoiding the issue of environmental protection, or on the contrary in co-opting it, seeking to compete with the environmentalists on their own turf?
General explanatory model for the attention paid by the major governing parties to the environment
General explanatory model for the attention paid by the major governing parties to the environmentDependent variable: salience of the environment in the platforms of the major governing parties.
*** p < 0.01; ** p < 0.05; * p < 0.1; standard errors associated with the coefficients appear between brackets.
N = 646. The coefficients represent a Generalized Least Squares (GLS) estimate; the standard errors are panel-corrected and grouped by party.
Observations: all things being equal, the fact of being in coalition with the greens involves a reduction in the salience of the environment of 26%. This relation is significant at the 1% level.
55Ambitious data-collection was the starting point for a comparison of the electoral platforms of more than 40 parties, in more than 20 countries, over the course of four decades. This article highlights the undeniable rise in importance of environmental issues in these platforms. It also explains the variations in the parties’ responses. The increase in attention paid to the environment is not limited to the mere effect of time’s passage. It also testifies to the strategic responses implemented by parties threatened by new issues and new parties.
56Thus, the increase in the space granted to the environment in these platforms was particularly strong among left-wing parties, and the gap with right-wing parties increases over time. All of this indicates that the environment is now one of the distinctive themes of the left. My findings also show that the degree of priority accorded to environmental protection reflects the balance of power between the major governing parties and the green parties trying to put the issue onto the agenda. Although the presence of environmentalist representatives in parliament does not modify the salience of the environment in party platforms, the proportionality of the electoral system and the fact of having entered into a coalition with the environmentalists does influence how the major governing parties treat the environment. Within the more proportional electoral systems, in which environmentalists pose a serious threat, the major parties tend to give more space to the environment than in majoritarian systems. When they manage to form governing coalitions with the environmentalists the major parties can afford to lower their environmentalist profile, in effect “delegating” the environment to their coalition partner.
57Moreover, the major governing parties are clearly taking the environmentalists’ electoral strength into consideration. To be more precise, the effect of the green parties’ electoral success on the salience of the environment changes over time: while it is positive at the beginning of the period (especially during the 1980s), it becomes negative from the beginning of the 1990s onwards. A threshold effect is undoubtedly at work, since the strategy of accommodation via the co-optation of the environmental theme is necessarily limited by the existence of many other issues that must also be addressed. In fact, at the end of a certain period, the fight against the growth of the environmental parties comes down to a strategy of ousting environmental questions from the agenda.
58This article thus makes it possible to refine our understanding of avoidance and co-optation mechanisms. The canonical hypothesis of avoidance, proposed by the pioneering studies of issue competition, is invalidated. The structural increase in the salience of the environment and the positive effect of environmentalists’ electoral success on this salience constitute the best evidence that the uptake of the adversary’s issues is an integral part of party strategies: the major governing parties cannot take the risk of completely ignoring the new issues. Since this is the case, parties may also choose, when this strategy of uptake fails, to stop participating in the communicative bidding war over the environment. There are still grounds for the selective-emphasis hypothesis, which suggests that parties concentrate first and foremost on the issues which directly benefit them.
59Of course, these conclusions represent trends relating to a great number of parties over a very long period. Like any statistical analysis, this research makes it possible to identify broad relations from a considerable sample of cases, but this necessarily entails a flattening of individual differences which it would be interesting to explore in case studies. For example, the case of the major Danish parties diverges from the model presented here, insofar as they began to give significant attention to environmental issues from the end of the 1970s, at which time they did not face significant competition from a green party. In the same way, it is difficult not to read into the weak representation of environmental issues in the platforms of the major British parties during the 2015 electoral campaign an effect of the great recession, which concentrates the attention of parties and voters on economic issues; moreover, this occurred at a time when the Green Party tripled its best historical success, constituting a direct threat to the major parties for the first time.
60This article’s findings also call for further studies to take account of dimensions of party strategies other than that of thematic salience, particularly those of framing and positioning. The fact of addressing environmental protection in a platform does not necessarily imply putting forward precise and coherent measures in order to protect the environment. Analysis of these additional dimensions would therefore be crucial to a deeper understanding of how major parties react.
61In other words, while this article documents and clarifies the major governing parties’ changes of strategy with respect to the environment during electoral campaigns, it remains necessary to study their promises concerning this issue – and their fidelity to these promises once the elections have been won – more closely. The French case proves the interest of such intensive studies. If the campaign of 2007 witnessed Nicolas Sarkozy forcefully engaging with environmental questions, the difficulties encountered in implementing promises after the Environmental Conference [Grenelle de l’Environnement] and the success of Europe-Écologie-Les Verts in the intermediate elections overwhelmed this engagement: during the campaign of 2012, Nicolas Sarkozy only devoted a few lines of his platform to the environment, in which he championed the French nuclear industry. Studying the reactions of the major governing parties in their various dimensions is thus important. It would help us to evaluate the capacity of our democracies, of which parties remain essential agents, to face the transformations produced by the environmental crisis. 
Major governing parties included in the study and average attention given to the environment in their platforms
Major governing parties included in the study and average attention given to the environment in their platforms
Nicolas Sarkozy, “La défense de l’environnement exige de nous une rupture fondamentale”, Le Figaro, 9 November 2006; “Ségolène Royal revendique la ‘crédibilité’ sur l’écologie”, Le Monde, 13 December 2006.
Seymour Martin Lipset and Stein Rokkan, Party Systems and Voter Alignments. Cross-National Perspectives (New York: Free Press, 1967).
Pierre Martin, “Comment analyser les changements dans les systèmes partisans d’Europe occidentale depuis 1945?”, Revue internationale de politique comparée, 14(2), 2007, 263-80; André-Paul Frognier, “Application du modèle de Lipset et Rokkan à la Belgique”, Revue internationale de politique comparée, 14(2), 2007, 281-302. The work of Hanspeter Kriesi and his colleagues also clarifies the development of this new cleavage, characterized as a cleavage between integration and demarcation: Hanspeter Kriesi, Edgar Grande, Romain Lachat, Martin Dolezal, Simon Bornschier and Timotheos Frey, West European Politics in the Age of Globalization (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).
Simon Persico, “Un clivage, des enjeux: une étude comparée de la réaction des grands partis de gouvernement face à l’écologie”, PhD dissertation in political science, 2014, Paris: Sciences Po. Here, too, the labelling of the cleavage may change. D. L. Seiler speaks of a cleavage between market and nature: Daniel-Louis Seiler, Les partis politiques en Occident. Sociologie historique du phénomène partisan (Paris: Ellipses, 2003); Pierre Martin speaks of a “humanity/nature” cleavage (P. Martin, “Comment analyser les changements”).
For an overview of the emergence and development of environmental parties in Europe, see in particular: Dick Richardson and Christopher Rootes, The Green Challenge: The Development of Green Parties in Europe (London: Routledge, 1995); Ferdinand Müller-Rommel and Thomas Poguntke, New Politics: Concepts, Methodology, Findings (London: Dartmouth, 1995); Pascal Delwit and Jean-Michel De Waele (eds), Les partis verts en Europe (Brussels: Éditions Complexe, 1999); Ferdinand Müller-Rommel, “The lifespan and the political performance of green parties in Western Europe”, Environmental Politics, 11(1), 2002, 1-16; Martin Dolezal, “Exploring the stabilization of a political force: the social and attitudinal basis of green parties in the age of globalization”, West European Politics, 33(3), 2010, 534-52.
Neil Carter, “Party politicization of the environment in Britain”, Party Politics, 12(6), 2006, 747-67 (748).
The major governing parties are especially ill at ease with the tension existing between the demand for measures to protect the environment and the productivist demand to increase production that is the basis of their project. This tension explains their internal divisions, which are often considerable. Cf. Kostas Gemenis, “The impact of the European Union on political parties’ environmental policy positions”, PhD dissertation, 2010, Keele University, Newcastle-under-Lyme, UK.
James Adams, Michael Clark, Lawrence Ezrow and Garrett Glasgow, “Are niche parties fundamentally different from mainstream parties? The causes and the electoral consequences of western European parties’ policy shifts, 1976-1998”, American Journal of Political Science, 50(3), 2006, 513-29.
Christoffer Green-Pedersen, “New issues, new cleavages, and new parties: how to understand changes in west European party competition”, paper presented at the Comparative Agendas Project conference, Seattle, 2010.
The table in the appendix lists the major governing parties included in the analysis, their ideological families, and the period and number of elections covered.
The latter wrote that “The outcome of the game of politics depends on which of a multitude of possible conflicts gains the dominant position”. Elmer Eric Schattschneider, The Semi-Sovereign People: A Realist’s View of Democracy in America (New York: Waldsford, 1960), 62.
Donald E. Stokes, “Spatial models of party competition”, American Political Science Review, 57(2), 1963, 368-77 (372).
David Robertson, A Theory of Party Competition (London: Wiley, 1976).
Ian Budge and David J. Farlie, Explaining and Predicting Elections: Issue Effects and Party Strategies in Twenty-Three Democracies (London: G. Allen & Unwin, 1983); Ian Budge, David Robertson and Derek J. Hearl, Ideology, Strategy and Party Change. Spatial Analyses of Post-War Election Programmes in 19 Democracies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987); Ian Budge, Hans-Dieter Klingemann, Andrea Volkens, Judith Bara, and Eric Tanenbaum, et al., Mapping Policy Preferences. Estimates for Parties, Electors, and Governments 1945-1998 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001); Hans-Dieter Klingemann, Andrea Volkens, Judith Bara, Ian Budge and Michael D. McDonald, Mapping Policy Preferences II: Estimates for Parties, Electors, and Governments in Eastern Europe, European Union, and OECD 1990-2003 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).
Ian Budge and David J. Farlie, “Party competition: selective emphasis or direct confrontation? An alternative view with data” in Hans Daadler and Peter Mair (eds), Western European Party Systems. Continuity and Change (London: Sage, 1983), 267-305 (269).
William H. Riker, The Art of Political Manipulation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986). Riker distinguishes heresthetics from rhetoric, which consists in convincing one’s adversary of the value of one’s arguments. Heresthetics, on the other hand, consists in obliging the adversary to discuss issues of one’s own choosing.
Edward G. Carmines and James A. Stimson, Issue Evolution: Race and the Transformation of American Politics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989).
Christoffer Green-Pedersen, “The growing importance of issue competition: the changing nature of party competition in western Europe”, Political Studies, 55(3), 2007, 607-28; Jane Green and Sarah B. Hobolt, “Owning the issue agenda: party strategies and vote choices in British elections”, Electoral Studies, 27(3), 2008, 460-76.
John R. Petrocik, “Issue ownership in presidential elections, with a 1980 case study”, American Journal of Political Science, 40(3), 1996, 825-50.
Jacques Gerstlé even translates the concept of issue ownership as “sectoral credibility [crédibilité sectorielle]”, which he defines as follows: “occupying an important place in strategies of political communication is the development of areas of long-term credibility, a reputation for the ability to deal with certain problems according to one’s party of origin or the political family which one represents”, Jacques Gerstlé, La communication politique (Paris: Armand Colin, 2nd edn, 2008) 142. [Translations from French language sources are by the translator of this article unless an alternative English-language source is given.]
Christoffer Green-Pedersen and Paula Blomqvist, “Defeat at home? Issue-ownership and social democratic support in Scandinavia”, Government and Opposition, 39(4), 2004, 587-613; Stefaan Walgrave and Knut De Swert, “Where does issue ownership come from? From the party or from the media? Issue-party identifications in Belgium, 1991-2005”, The Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, 12(1), 2007, 37-67.
This corresponds to the two types of “agenda” to which Josep M. Colomer and Riccardo Puglisi make reference, one being “endogenous to party competition”, the other being “exogenous […] imposed by external events, pressure groups or independent media”. Cf. Josep M. Colomer and Riccardo Puglisi, “Cleavages, issues and parties: a critical overview of the literature”, European Political Science, 4(4), 2005, 502-20 (514).
Sylvain Brouard, Emiliano Grossman, Isabelle Guinaudeau, “French party competition through the lens of electoral priorities: issue competition and issue uptake”, trans. Claire Morel, Revue française de science politique, 62(2), 2012, 255-76 (259).
Tracy Sulkin, Issue Politics in Congress (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Isabelle Guinaudeau and Simon Persico, “EU politicization through the lens of salience: How the EU enters the French, British and German electoral agenda (1986-2009)”, French Politics, 11(2), 2013, 143-68.
Lee Sigelman and Emmett H. Buell, “Avoidance or engagement? Issue convergence in U.S. presidential campaigns, 1960-2000”, American Journal of Political Science, 48(4), 2004, 650-61; David F. Damore, “Issue convergence in presidential campaigns”, Political Behavior, 27(1), 2005, 71-97; Keena Lipsitz, “Issue convergence is nothing more than issue convergence”, Political Research Quarterly, 66(4), 2013, 843-55.
John Sides, “The origins of campaign agendas”, British Journal of Political Science, 36(3), 2006, 407-36.
C. Green-Pedersen, “The growing importance of issue competition”.
Bonnie Meguid, “Competition between unequals: the role of mainstream party strategy in niche party success”, American Political Science Review, 99(3), 2005, 347-59, and Party Competition Between Unequals. Strategies and Electoral Fortunes in Western Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).
Even if few authors are interested in the subject, it should be remarked that some of the major governing parties have, earlier and more intensely than the others, taken environmental issues seriously in their electoral platforms, consequently explaining the absence of significant green parties. This is particularly noticeable in the Scandinavian countries where public opinion is largely favorable to environmentalism, such as Norway or Denmark. Cf. Bernt Aardal, “Green politics: a Norwegian experience”, Scandinavian Political Studies, 13(2), 1990, 147-62; Jorgen G. Andersen, “Denmark: environmental conflict and the ‘greening of the labour movement’”, Scandinavian Political Studies, 13(2), 1990, 185-208.
K. Gemenis, “The impact of the European Union”; Jae-Jae Spoon, Sarah B. Hobolt, and Catherine De Vries, “Going green: explaining issue competition on the environment”, paper presented at the Political Studies Association conference, Oxford University, 2012.
Clive Bean and Jonathan Kelley, “The electoral impact of new politics issues: the environment in the 1990 Australian federal election”, Comparative Politics, 27(3), 1995, 339-56.
Wolfgang Rüdig and Philip Lowe, “The withered ‘greening’ of British politics: A study of the Ecology Party”, Political Studies, 34(2), 1986, 262-84; Andrew Flinn and Philip Lowe, “The greening of the Tories: the Conservative Party and the environment”, in Wolfgang Rüdig (ed.), Green Politics Two (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1992), 9-36; Neil Carter, “Vote blue, go green: Cameron’s Conservatives and the environment”, The Political Quarterly, 80(2), 2009, 233-42, and “Party politicization of the environment in Britain”, Party Politics, 12(6), 2006, 747-67.
Daniel Boy, Le vote écologique en France: évolutions et structures (Paris: Cahiers du Cevipof, 6, 1991); Guillaume Sainteny, L’introuvable écologisme français? (Paris: PUF, 2000); Michel Hastings, “Partis politiques et transgressions écologistes” in Jean-Paul Bozonnet and Joël Jakubec (eds), L’écologisme à l’aube du XXIe siècle. De la rupture à la banalisation? (Geneva: Georg, 2000), 94; Bruno Villalba, “La pensée écolo de droite s’institutionnalise”, Ecorev’. Revue critique d’écologie politique, 19, 2005, online at <http://ecorev.org/spip.php?article340>, accessed 5 February 2016; Daniel Boy, “L’environnement est-il un enjeu politique?” (Paris: Cevipof, 2007) (Baromètre politique français); Timothée Duverger, Le Parti socialiste et l’écologie. 1968-2011 (Paris: Fondation Jean-Jaurès, 2011).
E. G. Carmines and J. A. Stimson, Issue Evolution.
Valérie Lacroix and Edwin Zaccaï, “Quarante ans de politique environnementale en France: évolutions, avancées, constante”, Revue française d’administration publique, 134, 2010, 205-32 (205).
Jean Jacob, Histoire de l’écologie politique (Paris: Albin Michel, 1999); F. Müller-Rommel, “The lifespan”.
James Adams, Andrea B. Haupt, and Heather Stoll, “What moves parties? The role of public opinion and global economic conditions in western Europe”, Comparative Political Studies, 42(5), 2009, 611-39.
David E. Bloom, “International public opinion on the environment”, Science, 269(5222), 1995, 354-8; Ronald Inglehart, “Public support for environmental protection: objective problems and subjective values in 43 societies”, PS: Political Science and Politics, 28(1), 1995, 57-72.
Riley E. Dunlap and Aaron McCright, “A widening gap: Republican and Democratic views on climate changes”, Environment, 56, 2008, 26-35.
Herbert Kitschelt, “European social democracy between political economy and electoral competition”, in Herbert Kitschelt, Peter Lange, Gary Marks and John D. Stephens, Continuity and Change in Contemporary Capitalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 317-45; Ashley Lavelle, The Death of Social Democracy: Political Consequences in the 21st Century (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2013); Fabien Escalona, Mathieu Vieira and Jean-Michel De Waele, “The unfinished history of European social democracy” in Fabien Escalona, Mathieu Vieira, and Jean-Michel De Waele (eds), The Palgrave Handbook of Social Democracy (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 3-29.
G. Sainteny, L’introuvable écologisme français?; Daniel Boy, “Les parlementaires et l’environnement”, Les Cahiers du PROSES, 7, 2003, online at <https://web.archive.org/web/20051012143044/http://www.proses.sciences-po.fr/fr/Cahier7.htm>, accessed 5 February 2016; Dominique Bourg and Alain Papaux, “Écologie: de l’exception française à la normalisation”, Le Débat, 160, 2010, 94-114.
N. Carter, “Party politicization”; Robert Ladrech, “Social democratic parties and the challenge of climate change policy”, paper given at CES conference, Boston, 2011, 13.
Robert Rohrschneider, “New party versus old left realignments: environmental attitudes, party policies, and partisan affiliations in four west European countries”, The Journal of Politics, 55(3), 1993, 682-701; Timothy Doyle and Doug McEachern, Environment and Politics (New York: Routledge, 2001), 112; Eric Neumayer, “The environment, left-wing political orientation and ecological economics”, Ecological Economics, 51(3-4), 2004, 167-75; Russell J. Dalton, “Economics, environmentalism and party alignments: a note on partisan change in advanced industrial democracies”, European Journal of Political Research, 48(2), 2009, 161-75; K. Gemenis, The Impact of the European Union, 148; Régis Dandoy, “Party manifestos and party competition in Belgium: the environmental issue”, paper given at the 12th national congress of the Association Française de Science Politique, Strasbourg, 2011; Neil Carter, “Greening the mainstream: party politics and the environment”, Environmental Politics, 22(1), 2013, 73-94.
E. Carmines and J. Stimson rightly call attention to the existence of a significant period of latency between the emergence of a conflict and its integration into the lines structuring party competition (E. G. Carmines and J. A. Stimson, Issue Evolution). On the case of the environment, cf. R. J. Dalton, “Economics, environmentalism and party alignments”.
Peter Mair, “The electoral universe of small parties in postwar western Europe”, in Ferdinand Müller-Rommel and Geoffrey Pridham (eds), Small Parties in Western Europe. Comparative and National Perspectives (London: Sage, 1991), 41-70 (41).
Wolfgang C. Müller and Kaare Strøm, Policy, Office, or Votes? How Political Parties in Western Europe Make Hard Decisions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).
William H. Riker, “The two-party system and Duverger’s Law. An essay on the history of political science”, American Political Science Review, 76(4), 1982, 753-66.
R. Rohrschneider, “New party versus old left realignments”; Kaare Strøm and Stephen Swindle, Political Left, Institutions and Environmental Reform (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).
K. Gemenis, The Impact of the European Union, 151.
K. Gemenis, The Impact of the European Union, 149-50; J.-J. Spoon et al., “Going green”.
Régis Dandoy and Damien Bol, “Environmental issue and party competition in Belgium: an application of QCA to cross-sectional time-series data”, paper given at the general conference of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR), Reykjavik, 2011. The authors show that “part[ies] do increase their attention to the environment when the green party is defeated in the elections. Parties make profit of the relative electoral weakness of the green party and try to have a stronger position on the environment”, 21-2.
G. Sainteny, L’introuvable écologisme français?, 157.
D. Boy, “L’environnement est-il un enjeu politique?”, 50.
N. Carter, “Party politicization”, 758; B. M. Meguid, Party Competition Between Unequals, 135.
Arendt Lijphardt, “Comparative politics and the comparative method”, American Political Science Review, 65(3), 1971, 682-93.
The list of countries is as follows: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States. Among the OECD countries, it thus omits six Central and Eastern European countries, in which the instability of party systems makes it difficult to study the strategies of the major governing parties over the long term. It also omits six Asian countries, the Middle East, and Latin America, as well as Italy and Iceland, for which it lacked the data relating to one or more variables presented below.
The period encompassed by this brief study runs from 1961 (the first date for which all the data for a country were obtained) to 2010 (the last date for which there is all the data for a country). This temporal span has the advantage of starting the analysis at the point when the environment was almost completely absent from electoral platforms and ending it at a point when the place of green parties has stabilized.
The table in the appendix presents the list of the major governing parties and elections included in the analysis.
The database, updated regularly, can be downloaded from the website of the project: <https://manifestoproject.wzb.eu/>.Cf. Appendix.
Annika Werner, Onnawa Lacewell and Andrea Volkens, Manifesto Coding Instructions (4th fully revised edition) (Berlin: Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung, 2011).
A. Werner et al., Manifesto Coding, 33.
A. Werner et al., Manifesto Coding, 32.
Thus, the new variable is calculated in the following way: sailenvir = ln (per501 + per416 + 1).
Willard G. Manning, “The logged dependent variable, heteroscedasticity, and the retransformation problem”, Journal of Health Economics, 17(3), 1998, 283-95.
Ian Budge and Michael Laver, Party Policy and Government Coalitions (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1992).
These themes include advocacy of anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism, criticism of the army, advocacy of peace, advocacy of internationalism, advocacy of democracy, advocacy of market regulation, advocacy of economic planning, advocacy of protectionism, advocacy of control of the economy, advocacy of nationalization, advocacy of the extension of the welfare state, advocacy of expansion of education, advocacy of trade unions.
These themes include advocacy of the army, advocacy of freedom and human rights, advocacy of the Constitution, advocacy of authority, advocacy of free enterprise, advocacy of economic incentives, criticism of protectionism, advocacy of economic orthodoxy, advocacy of the limitation of the welfare state, advocacy of the national way of life, advocacy of traditional morality, advocacy of order and safety, advocacy of social harmony. Thus the variable for positioning on the left-right axis is calculated in the following way: lefri = ln (n103 + n105 + n106 + n107 + n202 + n403 + n406 + n412 + n413 + n504 + n506 + n701 + 1) – n104 + n201 + n203 + n305 + n401 + n402 + n407 + n414 + n505 + n601 + n603 + n605 + n606). This variable for left-right positioning thus oscillates between – 3.5 – the far right – and 3.5 – the far left; its average is 0.91.
Will Lowe, Kenneth Benoit, Slava Mickhaylov, and Michael Laver, “Scaling policy preferences from coded political texts”, Legislative Studies Quarterly, 36(1), 2011, 123-55.
Arendt Lijphardt, Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), ch. 8.
Nils-Christian Borman and Matt Golder, “Democratic electoral systems around the world, 1946-2011”, Electoral Studies, 32(2), 2013, 360-9.
This score oscillates between 0 and 12.5%, for an average of 1.5%. This variable may appear unsatisfactory, insofar as the electoral success of the green party in the preceding legislative elections came more than five years earlier in certain cases. In fact, the influence of the green parties on the strategies of the major governing parties could take place over a shorter time, if, for example, they obtained very good electoral results in the intermediate elections preceding the national elections. The absence of intermediate elections of similar type in all the countries in the sample makes it difficult to operationalize such an assumption on such a large scale.
The data are available on the website of the Global Footprint Network: <http://www.footprintnetwork.org>.
Nathaniel Beck, “Time-Series Cross-Section Data”, in Kimberly Kempf-Leonard (ed.), Encyclopedia of Social Measurement (Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2005), 933-937.
Nathaniel Beck and Jonathan N. Katz, “What to do (and not to do) with time-series cross-section data”, American Political Science Review, 89(3), 1995, 634-47.
This variable has also the advantage of neutralizing the intrinsic differences between countries (“the country effect”).
In other words, the salience of the environment in the platform of a major governing party at the time of a given election is not explained by the salience of the environment in the platform of the same party at the time of the preceding election.
This choice to use a fixed effects model was confirmed by the Hausman test, which makes it possible to choose between using a fixed effects model or a random effects model. In any case, the random effects model yields fairly similar results. I also tested the Tobit regression model, which might have been more relevant than a traditional linear model, insofar as the dependent variable comprises a high number of zeros. This Tobit model yields results very similar to the linear model, ergo my preference for the latter, which was easier to interpret.
Since model 2 is a regression model with interaction, the coefficient of the variable Position on the left-right axis must be interpreted as the effect of the position on the left-right axis when Year = 0.
Cf. especially G. Sainteny, L’introuvable écologisme français?; N. Carter, “Party politicization”; B. Meguid, Party Competition Between Unequals; J.-J. Spoon et al., “Going green”.
If we do not take account of this temporal change, the electoral success of the greens has a positive effect on the salience of the environment in the platforms of the major governing parties.
K. Gemenis, The Impact of the European Union.
J.-J. Spoon et al., “Going green”.
James P. Lester and Elfat Loftsson, “The ecological movement and green parties in Scandinavia: problems and prospects”, in Sheldon Kamieniecki (ed.), Environmental Politics in the International Arena. Movements, Parties, Organizations, and Policy (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993), 127-48.
The study of the effect of the control variables in models 3 and 4 is very similar to that of models 1 and 2. The only difference is that the effect of the unemployment rate is no longer significant, while that of the ecological impact becomes slightly positive and slightly significant (at the 10% level) – a relation which will not be corroborated by the all-inclusive model that follows.
This article is indebted to the wise advice of Sylvain Brouard, Florence Faucher, Florence Haegel, Jacques Gerstlé, Emiliano Grossman, Florent Gougou, Isabelle Guinaudeau, Hanspeter Kriesi, Robert Ladrech, Raul Magni-Berton and Antoine Roger. I would also like to thank the reviewers and the editorial board of the Revue française de science politique for their comments and suggestions.