Private Donations and Policy Ambiguity

Christine Cahill, Andrey Tomashevskiy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


An important dimension of party positioning remains largely unexamined—that is, the clarity with which parties present policies to the electorate. Moreover, the effects of private campaign contributions on party positions are also vastly understudied. We address these gaps using a unique new data set on private contributions to political parties in eight Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries from the early 1990s to the present. We argue that parties are incentivized to present increasingly ambiguous, or broad appeal, policy positions as a result of increased private campaign contributions. Broad appeal campaigns allow parties to appease their donors with more extreme policy preferences while maintaining the support of their more moderate base supporters. We find support for this argument and show that increasing donations are associated with increased policy ambiguity. Using new data, this article is the first to examine an important connection between political finance and party positioning on a cross-national and time-series basis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)754-776
Number of pages23
JournalComparative Political Studies
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


  • campaign finance
  • political parties


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