Do candidates position themselves differently under different electoral systems and is their positioning in line with expectations derived from spatial theories? We reexamine these core political science questions using substantively-meaningful estimates of candidate ideological positions derived from quantitative scaling of 7,497 Japanese-language election manifestos used by candidates competing in the eight consecutive elections to Japan’s House of Representatives (HOR) on either side of its 1994 electoral reform. A battery of tests confirm that the vast majority of candidates position themselves closer to both opponents in the district and co-partisans after 1994, which is consistent with theoretical expectations. An exception is candidates from non-majority-seeking parties, who position themselves closer to co-partisans but relatively far from opponents after 1994. This is consistent with an electoral strategy of trying to increase their party’s PR vote share and lends further support to the validity of spatial theories.
Winner, Leon Weaver Award for the best paper presented at a panel sponsored by the Representation and Electoral Systems Division at APSA 2015.