The Role of Party Policy Positions in the Operation of Democracy

Robin E. Best and Michael D. McDonald

in Citizens, Context, and Choice

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780199599233
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595790 | DOI:
The Role of Party Policy Positions in the Operation of Democracy

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This chapter examines the role of political parties in providing voters with the potential to control public policy through elections. The chapter begins by asking whether popular control of policy is possible without political parties and conclude it is unlikely, if not unthinkable. We next turn to investigate how well parties fulfill the roles necessary for popular control. The chapter finds party systems in most democracies meet democratic expectations: they provide voters with manageable, recognizable, and distinct policy choices. On the final question of whether voters actually use party policy options to make each election a statement of collective policy choice, the evidence indicates they do not. The chapter concludes, because voters make choices on the basis of a mix of policy and non-policy considerations, elections as instruments of democratic representation must be seen within a time horizon that accounts for a series of elections rather than as one-off representational events.

Keywords: political parties; Left-Right attitudes; voting behavior; party system; polarization; representation; policy voting; electoral supply; CSES

Chapter.  9788 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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