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Crafting Mass Partisanship at the Grass Roots

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 March 2014


What are the sources of mass partisanship? The focus of this article is on the role of party organizational strategies in Brazil, where sociological cleavages are weak. All Brazilian parties post electoral gains by opening local branch offices, but only the Workers’ Party (PT) manages to win voters’ hearts and minds, cultivating mass partisan identification. This follows from its deliberate effort to use its local party organization to reach out to organized civil society – to ‘mobilize the organized.’ Results further indicate that the PT only gains partisan identifiers where civil society is organizationally dense. Together, this suggests that party strategy to cultivate partisanship is insufficient: pre-existing organizational networks must exist in civil society, meaning that ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ strategies are two sides of the same coin.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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Department of Political Science, University of Minnesota; Department of Political Science, Fundação Getúlio Vargas (emails:; Supplementary information, data and replication code is permanently available in the Dataverse Network and accessible through the following address: Versions of this article were presented at the conference on Party-Building in Latin America at Harvard University and at the workshop ‘The PT from Lula to Dilma,’ at the University of Oxford. The authors thank David Art, Oswaldo Amaral, Kosuke Imai, Rachel Meneguello, André Oliveira, Pedro Ribeiro, Taylor Boas, and Kathryn Hochstetler for their comments, and the staff at the IBGE (Juarez Silva Filho), CESOP (Rosilene Gelape), and Datafolha (Ana Cristina Cavalcanti de Souza) for granting access to data. Online appendices are available at


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