This paper proposes a method for analysing the dynamics of the relationship between political parties and voters. This relationship has hitherto typically been analysed within the analytical and theoretical framework of the cleavage model. The ‘cleavage’ perspective appears not to be the most promising way to proceed, however, because it neglects important electoral research results implying that electoral behaviour is decreasingly determined by social divisions (see, for example, Franklin et al. 1992). This paper argues that the link between parties and voters can be studied fruitfully by a spatial model in which policy preferences of parties and voters are represented by positions in a policy space. This has several advantages. First, using a spatial representation reflects empirical findings demonstrating that voters are increasingly policy oriented and less motivated by their socio-structural positions. Second, cleavage models have a rather exclusive focus on the relationship between parties and voters, whereas spatial representations allow for the analysis of additional types of party behaviour, for example coalitional or legislative. A third advantage is that the focus on policy positions reflects underlying normative democratic theories which hold that elections must link public preferences to public policies. Spatial models allow us to assess the extent to which empirical reality reflects these normative assumptions.