Finding a niche? Challenger parties and issue emphasis in the 2015 televised leaders’ debates

Nicholas Allen, Judith Bara, John Bartle

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Do leaders of ‘challenger’ parties adopt a ‘niche’ strategy in national televised debates? This article answers this question by analysing the content of the two multiparty televised leaders’ debates that took place ahead of the 2015 British general election. Using computer-aided text analysis (CATA), it provides reliable and valid measures of what the leaders said in both debates and develops our theoretical understanding of how challenger-party leaders make their pitches. It finds that the UK Independence Party (UKIP), Green Party, Scottish National Party (SNP) and Plaid Cymru leaders all demonstrated a degree of ‘nicheness’ in their contributions in comparison with the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour leaders. It also finds that the challenger-party leaders placed a greater emphasis on their core concerns. Nevertheless, the debates covered much policy ground. Their structure obliged all party leaders to talk about a broad range of issues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)807-823
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Politics and International Relations
Issue number4
Early online date14 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017

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