Do sub-national parties reproduce the programmatic orientation of the party as a whole? Or are they able to adjust their programmatic orientation to their sub-national electorate? I seek to answer these questions based on the policy positions of German sub-national parties and survey data on voters' positions. Referring to these very similar parties – which all have to commit themselves to certain policy positions in the run-up to state elections – allows for a controlled analysis of sub-national parties' autonomy. The analyses reveal that the regional context does play a role; voters' preferences and the unemployment rate appear to influence the dynamics of party positions. However, the results also show that regional branches of the same party change their positions in a similar way and also seek not to distance themselves too far from the national party line. This indicates that German sub-national parties appear first and foremost to be regional party branches of national parties.
Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties