From Pork to Policy: The Rise of Programmatic Campaigning in Japanese Elections

Date Published:

January 2016



We examine two related propositions central to the sub-field of comparative politics: that candidates for office adopt different electoral strategies in different electoral systems and rely more on particularism when faced with intra-party competition. We apply an innovative methodological approach that combines probabilistic topic modeling with in-depth qualitative interpretations of each topic to an original collection of 7,497 Japanese-language candidate election manifestos used in elections on either side of Japan's 1994 electoral reform.  We find that the reform, which eliminated intra-party competition, was associated with a decline in particularism and an increase in promises of programmatic goods such as national security among candidates affiliated with Japan's Liberal Democratic Party.  This is not explained by the entry of new candidates or other variables that could plausibly increase discussion of national security. Consistent with the theory, we find that opposition candidates relied on programmatic goods under both electoral systems.

Last updated on 07/18/2017