Political Science at Huntingdon College
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PSC 311: Voters, Parties & Elections

Lecture notes and diagrams

by Dr. Jeremy Lewis,revised 30 Aug. 2010
Electoral Systems
Party systems
Spatial Theory of Parties: One Dimension.
Spatial Theory of Parties: Two Dimensions.
From the Responsible Party Model to Modern politics
Opinion Polling Notes
Purposes of the party convention

Electoral Systems

Party systems
whom does the party represent?
voters (ID, membership, actual voting)
V.O. Key: the party in
the electorate,
party organization, and
in the government
how does the party represent by campaigning?
Where is the party located in the federal, state and local system?
How many parties are actually competitive nationally?
2 parties (Dem and Repub)
1 1/2 parties
(1970s, when Dems controlled 2/3 Govs, 2/3 HR, 2/3 state legis, & presidency)
(1990s, when Repubs largely reversed this)
2 major parties with occasional minor ("third") parties
2 major parties with longstanding minor ("third") parties (UK, with one substantial minor party and others with regional appeal or ideological appeal)
2 major parties with regular minor parties in between them and outside (Germany)
several parties, often forming coalitions under PR
multiple parties (Israel, 23)
Is the bottom line patronage -- or policy?
Is the party system competitive?
What makes a political party different from a social movement or an interest group?
multiple policy goals
united by common ideas
choses office seekers
provides a label in campaigns for office
seeks to play a role in governance (though not all)
Is the bottom line patronage -- or policy?

Spatial Theory of Parties:
Simple Party Spectrum Theory:
My Big Brother Roger analogy:
Where to put the ice cream cart on Bournemouth beachfront?
7 miles of golden sand
2 piers are spaced 1 mile apart
"zig zag" access walks down cliffs are spaced all along beachfront.
Roger places his cart first.
My product and umbrella are assumed identical
"grothols" (grotty holidaymakers) like ice cream but not walking
If perfect spread of "grothols"
If Bournemouth pier attracts cluster of "grothols"
If Boscombe pier attracts separate cluster of "Euro birds" (ideology)
If I am strongly attracted to the iron age fort at Hengistbury head (east end) rather than the trendy boating and windsurfing at Sandbanks (west end.)


  Roger <<-Me?
For voting theory, grothols are voters; the piers are

Duverger's Law of Political Parties:

With even distribution of voters, winner take all system, two parties tend to center:
B <<-B

But while applies to Bell curve -- it does not apply to polarised population, e.g. Northern Ireland.

US spectrum is narrower than European.  It goes from Euro inside Left to beyond Euro Right:

Euro Marxist Left
Euro Socialists Euro Social Dems and Liberals.
US Northern Dems.
Euro & US Conservatives US Free Market Right

Two dimensional Euro spectrum of parties,
by economic intervention (x axis) and by gov't authority (y axis).
More gov't authority
More Govt control of economy Fascist parties
National Fronts
Less Govt control of economy
Euro Communists
Social Democrats Euro Liberal
Euro Christian 
+New Labour UK
Traditional values 
(Hang 'em & Flog 'em)
Free market 
Greens Less Govt authority Anarchist

The US economic intervention spectrum (x axis) -- with Fundamentalist Faith (y) axis, 2004.
More Govt control of economy Fundamentalist Faith Less Govt control of economy
no equivalent no equivalent US liberal Democrats US moderate Democrats US center? US Republicans US Republicans
Secular, bicoastal sophisticates?
soccer moms, 1992 security moms, 2004?

Does the post-civil rights period (1970-) usher in a realignment -- or a dealignment of parties?
Realignment hypothesis relies on:
cross-cutting issue cleavage
(affirmative action, 1970s? economy & deficit, 1992? moral values, 2004?)
new voters choosing one party
rising participation
minor parties as signs of issue change
3 presidential elections of change
Difficult to argue against Republican realignment of South, plus plains and mountain states.
Dealignment hypothesis relies on:
rise of split ticket voting
reduced participation
declining party membership
waning of issues of New Deal alignment
alienation & distrust
candidate centered campaigns
independent expenditures on TV spots.


Opinion Polling Discussion Notes


# Purposes of the party convention

  # unifying the party
  # motivating the party ("firing up the troops")
  # fundraising
  # rewarding the party activists
  # setting the platform cf manifesto
  # determining nominee (formality)
  # gaining popularity (to translate into votes)
  # TV airtime for candidate (requires skills; superficial)
  # addressing scandals, criticism
  # exploit weaknesses of other party
  # respond to claims or attacks by other party
  # introduce rising stars (Gov. Mark Warner, D -- and Gov. Palin, R.)

# Palin's speech, 2008

  # red meat for the activists
  # humor
  # lively personality
  # dealing with scandal (visually, oral reference)
  # introduction of family and politician
  # support the candidate
  # achievements, defend weaknesses and turn to positives
  # attack the other party
  # bring in the home state
  # balance the ticket