Hostname: page-component-8448b6f56d-wq2xx Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-04-23T02:42:00.368Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Party System Compactness: Measurement and Consequences

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 January 2017

R. Michael Alvarez
Affiliation:
Division of Humanities and Social Sciences, Mail Code 228-77, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125. e-mail: rma@hss.caltech.edu
Jonathan Nagler
Affiliation:
Department of Politics, New York University, 726 Broadway, Room 752, New York, NY 10003. e-mail: jonathan.nagler@nyu.edu

Abstract

An important property of any party system is the set of choices it presents to the electorate. In this paper we analyze the distribution of parties relative to voters in the multidimensional issue space and introduce two measures of the dispersion of the parties in the issue space relative to the voters, which we call measures of the compactness of the parties in the issue space. We show how compactness is easily computed using standard survey items found on national election surveys. Because we study the spacing of the parties relative to the distribution of the voters, we produce metric-free measures of compactness of the party system. The measures can be used to compare party systems across issues, over time within countries, and across countries. Comparing the compactness of party systems across countries allows us to determine the relative amount of issue choice afforded voters in different polities. We examine the compactness of the issue space and test the impact it has on voter choice in four countries: the United States, the Netherlands, Canada, and Great Britain. We demonstrate that the more compact the distribution of the parties in the issue space on any given issue, the less voters weight that issue in their vote decision. Thus we provide evidence supporting theories suggesting that the greater the choice offered by the parties in an election, the more likely it is that issue voting will play a major role in that election.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Society for Political Methodology 2004 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

Aldrich, J. H., and McKelvey, R. D. 1977. “A Method of Scaling with Applications to the 1968 and 1972 Presidential Elections.” American Political Science Review 71: 111130.Google Scholar
Alvarez, R. M. 1998. Information and Elections, Revised to Include the 1996 Presidential Election. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
Alvarez, R. M., Franklin, C. H. 1994. “Uncertainty and Political Perceptions.” Journal of Politics 56: 671689.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Alvarez, R. M., and Nagler, J. 1995. “Economics, Issues and the Perot Candidacy: Voter Choice in the 1992 Presidential Election.” American Journal of Political Science 39: 714744.Google Scholar
Alvarez, R. M., Nagler, J. 1998a. “Economics, Entitlements and Social Issues: Voter Choice in the 1996 Presidential Election.” American Journal of Political Science 42: 13491363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Alvarez, R. M., Nagler, J. 1998b. “When Politics and Models Collide: Estimating Models of Multiparty Elections.” American Journal of Political Science 42: 5596.Google Scholar
Alvarez, R. M., Nagler, J., Willette, J. 2000. “Measuring the Relative Impact of Issues and the Economy in Democratic Elections.” Electoral Studies 19: 237253.Google Scholar
Anker, H., Oppenhuis, E. V. 1997. Dutch Parliamentary Election Study, 1994. [Computer file]. Amsterdam: Dutch Electoral Research Foundation and (SKON)/Netherlands Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) [producers], 1995. Amsterdam: Steinmetz Archive/Ann Arbor: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 1997.Google Scholar
Bartels, L. M. 1986. “Issue Voting Under Uncertainty: An Empirical Test.” American Journal of Political Science 30: 709728.Google Scholar
Bartolini, S., Mair, P. 1990. Identity, Competition, and Electoral Availability: The Stabilization of European Electorates 1885–1985. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Brady, H. E., Ansolabehere, S. 1989. “The Nature of Utility Functions in Mass Publics.” American Political Science Review 83: 11651179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Budge, I., Robertson, D., and Hearl, D., eds. 1987. Ideology, Strategy and Party Change: Spatial Analyses of Postwar Election Programmes in 19 Democracies. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Campbell, A., Converse, P. E., Miller, W. E., Stokes, D. E. 1964. The American Voter. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
Castles, F., and Mair, P. 1984. “Left-Right Political Scales: Some ‘Expert’ Judgements.” European Journal of Political Research 12: 7388.Google Scholar
Davis, O. A., Hinich, M. J. 1966. “A Model of Policy Formation in Democratic Society.” In Mathematical Applications in the Social Sciences, ed. Bernd, J. L. Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, pp. 175208.Google Scholar
Davis, O. A., and Hinich, M. J., Ordeshook, P. 1970. “An Expository Development of a Mathematical Model of the Electoral Process.” American Political Science Review 64: 426448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Downs, A. 1957. An Economic Theory of Democracy. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
Enelow, J., Hinich, M. 1984. The Spatial Theory of Voting. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Franklin, C. H. 1991. “Eschewing Obfuscation? Campaigns and the Perceptions of U.S. Senate Incumbents.” American Political Science Review 85: 11931214.Google Scholar
Gabel, Matthew J., and Huber, John. 2000. “Putting Parties in Their Place: Inferring Party Left-Right Ideological Positions from Party Manifestos Data.” American Journal of Political Science 44: 94103.Google Scholar
Heath, A., Jowell, R., and Curtice, J. K. 1995. British Election Study: Cross-Section 1987. [Computer file]. London: Social and Community Planning Research/Oxford: A. Heath et al., Oxford University [producers], 1989. Colchester, England: ESRC Data Archive/Ann Arbor: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Science Research [distributor], 1995.Google Scholar
Holland, Paul W., and Wainer, Howard, eds. 1993. Differential Item Functioning. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
Johnston, R., and Blais, A., Brady, H., Gidengil, E., Nevitte, N. 1995. Canadian Election Study, 1993: Incorporating the 1992 Referendum Survey on the Charlottetown Accord. [Computer file]. ICPSR version. Vancouver: Richard Johnston, University of British Columbia/Montreal: Andre Blais, University of Montreal/Berkeley, CA: Henry Brady, University of California/Montreal: Elisabeth Gidengil, McGill University/Calgary, Alberta: Neil Nevitte, University of Calgary [producers], 1995. Ann Arbor: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 1995.Google Scholar
Key, V. O. 1966. The Responsible Electorate. New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
Kim, Hee-min, Fording, Richard C. 2002. “Extending Party Estimates to Governments and Electors.” In Mapping Policy Preferences, eds. Budge, Ian et al. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 157178.Google Scholar
King, Gary, Murray, Christopher J. L., Salomon, Joshua A., Tandon, Ajay. 2003. “Enhancing the Validity and Cross-Cultural Comparability of Measurement in Survey Research.” Unpublished manuscript, Harvard University.Google Scholar
Klingemann, Hans-Dieter. 1995. “Party Positions and Voter Orientations.” In Citizens and the State, eds. Klingemann, Hans-Dieter and Fuchs, Dieter. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 183205.Google Scholar
Klingemann, Hans-Dieter, Wessels, Bernhard. 2002. “Sincere Voting in Different Electoral Systems”. Unpublished manuscript, Wissenschaftzentrum Berlin fur Sozialforschung.Google Scholar
Laver, Michael, and Benoit, Kenneth, Garry, John. 2003. “Extracting Policy Positions from Political Texts Using Words as Data.” American Political Science Review 97: 311331.Google Scholar
Laver, M., and Hunt, W. B. 1992. Policy and Party Competition. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Mair, P. 1996. “Party Systems and Structures of Competition.” In Comparing Democracies: Elections and Voting in Global Perspective, eds. LeDuc, L., Niemi, R. G., and Norris, P. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp. 83106.Google Scholar
Nie, N. H., Verba, S., and Petrocik, J. R. 1979. The Changing American Voter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Page, B. I. 1976. “The Theory of Political Ambiguity.” American Political Science Review 70: 742–52.Google Scholar
Page, B. I. 1978. Choices and Echoes in Presidential Elections. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Page, B. I., and Brody, R. A. 1972. “Policy Voting and the Electoral Process: The Vietnam War Issue.” American Political Science Review 66: 979995.Google Scholar
Palfrey, T. R., Poole, K. T. 1987. “The Relationship between Information, Ideology, and Voting Behavior.” American Journal of Political Science 31: 511530.Google Scholar
Poole, K. 1998. “Recovering a Basic Space From a Set of Issue Scales.” American Journal of Political Science 42: 954993.Google Scholar
Rosenstone, S. J., Kinder, D. R., Miller, W. E., and the National Election Studies. 2000. American National Election Study, 1996: Pre- and Post-Election Survey. [Computer file]. 4th version. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, Center for Political Studies [producer], 1999. Ann Arbor: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2000.Google Scholar
Sani, G., Sartori, G. 1983. “Polarization, Fragmentation and Competition in Western Democracies.” In Western European Party Systems: Continuity and Change, eds. Daalder, H. and Mair, P. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, pp. 307340.Google Scholar
Sartori, G. 1976. Parties and Party Systems: A Framework for Analysis. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Shepsle, K. A. 1972. “The Strategy of Ambiguity: Uncertainty and Electoral Competition.” American Political Science Review 66: 555568.Google Scholar
Van Der Eijk, C. 2001. “Measuring Agreement in Ordered Rating Scales.” Quality and Quantity 35: 325341.Google Scholar
Ware, A. 1996. Political Parties and Party Systems. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar