Activists, Influence, and Representation in American Elections

Walter J. Stone

in The Oxford Handbook of American Political Parties and Interest Groups

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780199542628
Published online May 2010 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of American Politics

 Activists, Influence, and Representation in American Elections

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This article describes the place of party activists in the electoral process, with attention to questions about whether and how they distort processes of electoral representation in the United States. In general elections, activists' strong partisanship is usually seen as pushing them inexorably to support their party's candidate. Furthermore a study of the 2006 midterm elections in the House of Representatives is elaborated. The effect of activist opinion in districts on incumbent position-taking and the influence of activist mobilization on incumbent vote share are reviewed. There is an increasing realization among scholars of the electoral process that activists are essential to understanding the connections between the public and candidates, party images, and processes of change. It is possible that the participation of activists contributes essentially to the health and functioning of the electoral system.

Keywords: American elections; party activists; electoral process; electoral representation; partisanship; House of Representatives; activist opinion; activist mobilization; electoral system

Article.  7387 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; US Politics ; Political Behaviour

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