Political Party Manifestos

Political party manifestos are an imperfect way of offering policy choices, and they are vulnerable to changes in circumstances

Political parties publish manifestos, or ‘platforms’, to attract support from voters (  These documents can be thought of as a contract between politicians and voters: “this is what I will do for you if you elect me”.  There are problems in asking voters to choose which party to support on that basis:

●  Parties naturally want to offer many enticing policies, in the hope of attracting voters.  The longer the document, though, the less likely it is to be read by all voters.  The U.S. Democratic Party Platform was 91 pages in 2020.

●  A single vote to choose a party is an endorsement of all aspects of that party’s programme – it isn’t possible to pick and mix policies from different parties.

●  Manifestos should give examples of a party’s policy priorities, but firm commitments are risky because circumstances will change within a government’s term of office.  Politicians then have excuses for not keeping the promises they have made.  The coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine both gave ample opportunity for politicians to explain away broken promises.

Political party manifestos which focus more on ideology and strategic objectives are less vulnerable to change than those which try to provide details of implementation.  They are also easier to vote for because they demand less effort and less knowledge from voters.  The U.S. Republican Party took this principle to extremes though, as reported by HuffPost: GOP Says It Won’t Have New Party Platform For 2020 Election, Will Just Support Trump.

The best that can be achieved is that the voter has some basis for making a choice and can choose not to vote for parties with unacceptable policies.  As argued later in this chapter (6.5.3), consultation is the most effective way of enabling the population to make its voice heard on specific issues.



This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/6323.htm.