Several different models of local political party organization can be found in the accumulating studies of American local politics. One model is typified by the research of Forthal, Gosnell, Kent, and Salter, and presents a picture of the party organization as attracting and disciplining workers through material incentives, non-ideological in its appeals, and oriented toward obtaining votes for securing or maintaining the party in political control of the government. An alternative model has been described in more recent research by Wilson, Hirschfield, and Carney. They portray the party activist as being more ideologically oriented, responding to ideological rather than material incentives, and seeking governmental reform or improved governmental services. Changes in the environment have been identified as the causal forces for this change in political party organizational style. For example, Greenstein points out that urban party machines developed to provide required services for which demand was generated by rapid urbanization, disorganized governmental structures, and the needs of recent immigrants. The research describing the material-incentive-motivated political machines was produced primarily during the 1920's and 1930's when the need for accommodation to urban problems of the type described existed to a greater degree than at present.
The social characteristics of the activists as well as the political style of the two types of party organizations described in the professional and amateur models also differ. The professional model presents a party organization whose members are male, oriented toward material rewards or a career in government, and exhibit little concern for issues.