Ideological semantics have long served as a means of political communication and an informational shortcut between voters and political elites. As the usage of ideological labels spread to non-Western settings, questions have been raised concerning whether and how these concepts can reflect issue dimensions beyond the economic debates that have traditionally defined “left” and “right” in most Western democracies. The present study explores what issue dimensions citizens in Japan associate with ideological labels, and the degree to which ideological orientations and proximity to parties affect vote choice. We use longitudinal survey data covering a quarter-century to investigate (i) to what extent do citizens understand the ideological space in terms of foreign and security policy at the expense of other issue dimensions, as previous studies have documented; and (ii) whether ideological orientations have remained a relevant guide to voting behavior for four major parties in the past three decades.
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