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The Etiology of Partisan Competition

Samuel C. Patterson and Gregory A. Caldeira
The American Political Science Review
Vol. 78, No. 3 (Sep., 1984), pp. 691-707
DOI: 10.2307/1961837
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1961837
Page Count: 17
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The Etiology of Partisan Competition
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Abstract

In this inquiry, we focus upon the question, @'Why are political parties more competitive in some states than they are in others?@' We have measured partisan competition as the closeness between the two major political parties in the results of state-level elections, and we have chosen to analyze elections in American states in the 1970s. To account for variations among the states on the dimension of partisan competitiveness, we formulate and present four discrete lines of reasoning--including socio-demographics, urbanization, diversity, and the strength of party organizations. We test each of these avenues of explanation in turn, always taking into account the watershed between North and South in partisan competition. The results vindicate the utility of our general approach, although we do find that each of the four modes of explanation is wanting in some respect. In a full-blown multivariate context, we report that educational levels and urbanization do influence variations among states in partisan competition. Equally compelling and perhaps more interesting, the strength and activism of local party organizations in the states profoundly affect political competitiveness, even when we take stark regional differences into consideration.

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