Party Identification and Party Choice

Frode Berglund, Sören Holmberg, Hermann Schmitt and Jacques Thomassen

in The European Voter

Published in print July 2005 | ISBN: 9780199273218
Published online October 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191602962 | DOI:

Series: Comparative Politics

Party Identification and Party Choice

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This chapter tests the validity of two alternative theoretical perspectives on the evolution of party identification. According to the first perspective, which is based on the theory of modernization, one should expect a secular decline of the level of party identification. The reason is that modern, well educated citizens do not need the cue of party identification anymore. The second perspective focuses on political rather than social correlates of party identification, and predicts less linear developments. Adversary politics is supposed to be favourable for the development of partisanship, while a broad political consensus across the major parties is expected to suppress the development of party identification. Whereas the first perspective predicts a linear decline of partisanship, the second one does not. The empirical evidence with regard to the first perspective is mixed. Although party identifiers have become less numerous over time, this development is anything but monotonous in most countries. Moreover, the micro-theory underlying the theory of modernisation is not corroborated. Contrary to expectations, cognitive mobilisation does not lead to a lower level of party identification. However, the evidence supporting the second perspective is equally ambivalent. The political correlates of the development of party identification are modest at best, and cannot fully explain what is going on in the six West European countries under study.

Keywords: party identification; partisanship; party choice

Chapter.  7099 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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