Parties without Partisans: Political Change in Advanced Industrial Democracies

By Russell J. Dalton; Martin P. Wattenberg | Go to book overview

2 The Decline of Party Identifications

Russell J. Dalton

One of the most important measures of the nature of party-based democracy is public attachment to political parties. In a recent essay on the state of political parties in America, John Coleman (1996) argues that the key question of partisan politics is whether parties are able to mobilize and integrate the mass public into the democratic process. Parties should not be measured by their organizational activities alone—although these are important measures of partisan politics—but by the goals of this activity. An important measure of the nature of party politics is the public's identification with political parties and the system of party government.

This chapter approaches the study of partisan change with an individualist emphasis for two reasons. First, public ties to political parties measure both the vitality of party government and provide a context within which parties, candidates, and other political actors operate. The number of campaign rallies organized by a party, the election mailers and brochures, and the party contact with voters are means toward an end—developing public support for the party, and indirectly legitimacy for a system of party-based democracy. Second, the processes of political modernization outlined in Chapter 1 often lead to changes in the citizen's relationship to politics. For example, rising educational levels and changing communication patterns should alter how citizens relate to politics. Thus many of the changes in the functional bases of party politics should first appear in public attitudes and behaviours.

This chapter begins by discussing the importance of partisanship as a concept in electoral research. The analyses review the evidence of change in partisan attachments for a broad set of advanced industrial societies. Despite the extensive work that has been done on partisanship, scholars remain divided on the extent of

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Parties without Partisans: Political Change in Advanced Industrial Democracies
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Comparative Politics ii
  • Parties Without Partisans iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • List of Figures ix
  • List of Tables x
  • Notes on Contributors xii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I Parties in the Electorate 17
  • 2 the Decline of Party Identifications 19
  • Appendix 62
  • 4 the Decline of Party Mobilization 64
  • Part II Parties as Political Organizations 77
  • 5 Parties Without Members? 79
  • Quantitative Changes in the Resourcing of West European Political Parties 126
  • Appendix Leadership Selectorate Details, by Party 150
  • Part III Parties in Government 155
  • 8 Parties in Legislatures: 157
  • 9 Parties at the Core of Government 180
  • Appendix 204
  • 11 on the Primacy of Party in Government 238
  • Conclusion 259
  • Appendix 285
  • References 286
  • Index 311
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