A political platform is a series of positions on political issues that is used to promote a particular political party or candidate. It often comes in the form of a manifesto, a carefully worded political document that appeals to voters by touching on a number of issues which are important to them. Analysis of these platforms is a topic of interest for many people, especially in presidential election years, when political parties struggle for control of a nation, and their positions are vital tools.
The individual topics within a political platform are sometimes referred to as “planks,” carrying the platform metaphor to its logical conclusion. Common planks include stances on issues like education, the environment, national security, welfare, and so forth, with the positions being adjusted to meet changing cultural values and emerging global issues. In the United States, for example, after the terrorist attacks of 2001, many political parties adopted a tough stance on terrorism as part of their platform.
Typically, each political party has a platform, and individual members of that party have their own positions that are often closely aligned with those of the party. The broad scope of the national platform is designed to attract voters to that party, in the hopes of creating loyalty and potentially generating voters who will automatically pick candidates associated with that party on the strength of the national platform. Individual platforms tend to focus more on regional issues and personal political beliefs of the candidates, with many candidates picking a pet issue, such as poverty, to focus on.
Many people associate specific parties with particular issues since those issues make up the cornerstone of the party's philosophy. For example, some political parties are known for a hands-off approach to national government, with a focus on the rights of individual regions to set their own policies, while others prefer a more centrally organized government. The authors of a political platform strive to appeal to common concerns among the populace while making their party seem like the only patriotic choice for voters.
A platform is typically widely distributed, with journalists and commentators being encouraged to quote from it when they analyze candidates and upcoming elections. Candidates also become familiar with the positions of their opponents so that they can identify weak points of potential attack, and voters will often hear rhetoric about a candidate or party's platform at political rallies.