Research project: The Meanings of Manifestos (Daniel Bischof)

The ways and means how political parties engage with citizens have changed over time. Some forms of communication are increasingly used, whereas others are in decline. Today, party representatives appear on television and use social media instead of handing out leaflets or making house calls. However, there are means of communication which seem not to be affected by the changing environment of party-citizen linkages. The prime example are party manifestos. Party manifesto are drafted in most democracies, routinely before an election takes place. An extensive body of literature relies on the analysis of such manifestos to investigate all sorts of political mechanisms – especially the left-right placement of political parties. Yet researchers have paid scarce attention to the style and language employed in manifestos. At the same time they might have overemphasized the importance of manifestos especially for the public.

Yet, how external actors understand policy messages delivered in manifestos depends on the complexity of the messages and the linguistic connotation attached to such messages. This research aims at understanding not only the linguistic style of manifestos by using quantitative text analysis but also the meanings of manifestos for party members by employing field experiments.


  • Paper by Bischof, Daniel and Roman Senninger on “Who Simplifies Politics? Complexity of Party Manifestos in Germany and Austria (1945-2013)”, at the MPSA, Chicago.
  • Paper by Bischof, Daniel (in preparation) on “Positivity in Politics: How Governing Affects Sentiment in Party Manifestos”, at the Manifesto Workshop, Berlin.
  • Paper by Bischof, Daniel, Nanou Kyriaki and Florian Foos (in preparation) on “Do Manifesto Positions Keep the Party on Track?”