Unit 13: Party System Change

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Readings:
Dalton and Wattenberg CH 2-4
Reserves: Mair et al. pgs. 145-178
Questions
 What is dealignment?
 How is it measured?
 How would we determine whether or not
dealignment was occurring?
 What risks do parties face as a result of
dealignment?
Dealignment
 Dalton 1999; Dalton et al 1999
 Partisan ID is fundamental to shaping the relationship between voters
and the political system.
 Focuses on the extent to which voters remain attached to political
parties.
 Notes a decline in partisanship in advanced democracies.

Economic development is weakening the relevance of political parties.
 This weakening undercuts party alignments and can weaken electoral
stability.
 Contend that this weakening is a result of modernization.
 Also suggest that decline is an ongoing trend, not temporary.
 Consequences:
 1) Political parties functions being eclipsed by other actors
 2) Weaker levels of partisan identification
 3) Candidate vs. party focused appeals
The Case for Dealignment
 Dalton et al 1999
 Hypothesis: If dealignment is occurring due to greater
access to education and mass media, we should see a
decline in partisanship concentrated in younger age
groups.
 Claims support for this hypothesis.
 Hypothesis: If greater education and greater access to
political information is relevant to dealignment, we
should see independent voters who are more, not less
involved in their political systems.
 Claims support for this hypothesis.
Consequences of Dealignment: Electoral
Participation
 Wattenberg 1999
 Effects of weakening political parties should also be
observed in terms of electoral participation .
 Hypothesis: Dealignment should be associated with a
decline in turnout.
 Focuses on turnout amongst the percentage of the
voting age population entitled to vote (not registered
voters) who actually cast a valid ballot for the lower
house of parliament.
 Finds a decline in turnout in 17 out of 19 cases.
 Unclear whether or not this is a short term or a long term trend.
Consequences of Dealignment: Electoral
Behavior
 Dalton et al 1999
 They look at three factors:
 1) Electoral behavior
 2) Candidate/party relationships
 3) Electoral participation
 Hypotheses:
 1) If dealignment weakens electoral stability, we should see higher
levels of electoral volatility.
 2) We should also observe more political parties.
 3) We should observe increased levels of split ticket voting and
divided government.
 Claim support for all three
Consequences of Dealignment: Candidates
and Parties
 Dalton et al 1999
 Dealignment shifts politics away from parties and
towards individual candidates.
 The spread of primaries coupled with mass media
campaigns facilitate this.
 Hypothesis: We should expect to see more candidate
centered campaigns.
 Claims support for hypothesis.
 Argues that the effects are greater in presidential over parliamentary
systems.
Consequences for Regime?
 On one hand, voters are still connected to the political process.
 But they are using alternative methods to obtain political information.
 Dalton et al 1999
 May provide for a more thorough vetting of candidates.
 Could also provide a platform for extreme parties or demagogues.
 Decreased turnout can make it easier for parties to win elections;
able to limit their appeals to their base.
 Putnam 1995, 2000
 Argues that a decline in turnout indicates a weakness within
democracy
 Wattenberg 1999
 Parties are no longer tapping into electorates; problematic.
Caveats
 Small number of data points lead to coefficients that
are not significant at conventional levels.
 If voters are increasingly more sophisticated politically,
why would they be drawn to extreme ideologies?
 If they are open to these appeals, what does this suggest?
 Disagreement over whether actual disengagement is
actually occurring.
 And whether this is damaging for democracy.
The Future of Parties?
 Realignment may threaten the existence of specific parties but
would not endanger political parties as institutions.
 Dealignment arguably undercuts the centrality of political parties;
may strengthen other societal institutions.
 Is dealignment dangerous for democracy?
 Research is mixed.
 Traditional views of the party in the electorate and the party as
organization suggest decline.
 Party identification is declining and other actors are shaping political behavior.
 Parties remain flexible institutions; unlikely they will wither away
 Unclear that the party in government is in any danger of
replacement.
Final Examination
 Use Mair et al. as case material to address the final examination.
 No late papers or e-mail copies will be accepted.
Plan accordingly.
 Difficulties accessing reserves does NOT constitute an
emergency.
 Readings available on electronic and hard reserves at Geisel.
 Due to copyright restrictions we CANNOT send e-mail
copies.
 Please direct all questions regarding reserves to Geisel.
 Good luck!

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