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Assessing Party Organizational Strength

James L. Gibson, Cornelius P. Cotter, John F. Bibby and Robert J. Huckshorn
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 27, No. 2 (May, 1983), pp. 193-222
DOI: 10.2307/2111015
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2111015
Page Count: 30
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Assessing Party Organizational Strength
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Abstract

Most research on the problem of change in the U.S. political party system relies on trends in electoral behavior to assess the condition of parties. Generally, the conclusions drawn have been pessimistic. But though voters are undeniably an important dimension of party, so too are party organizations. Inferences have been drawn concerning the relationship between electoral behavior and party organizations, but the data that would permit the determination of whether party organizations suffer as a consequence of, or in covariation with, changing patterns of party identification and voting have not been available. This article presents evidence that state party organizations have not suffered during the last two decades. The analysis reveals that party organizations have become stronger since the early 1960s, although it notes a slight decline during the decade of the 1970s. And although interparty differences over the two decades are fairly substantial--with Republican organizations stronger than Democratic organizations--the trend through the early 1970s was one of diminishing differences between the parties. Since then the Republican advantage has increased, largely as a function of a recent Democratic decline in strength. The strength of state party organizations should not be taken to indicate the condition of the party system, but neither can other dimensions of party be understood without recognition that party organizations were weaker in the decade of The American Voter than they are today.

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