Recent studies of political elites have done much to uncover information about how political groups, communities and political systems function. Numerous arguments have been employed to justify elite analysis and particularly those aspects of it which concentrate on the social composition of the elite and the patterns by which members are recruited into it. In examining the elite of an elective institution, the main justifications are four-fold. Firstly, knowledge of how a society ‘selects’ a particular set of persons who hold common social attributes can tell us much about the values and biases of that society. Conversely, the manner in which a political party states a preference for a certain type of candidate for elective office can convey similar conclusions about that party. Thirdly, if the study is extended over time, change in the collective characteristics of an elite can reflect change within the social structure of the society. Fourthly, if the study is placed in a comparative context, inferences may be drawn about the relationship between the party’s organisational structure and that of the social system.


Political Party Political Elite Political Group Labour Party Political Opportunity 
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    For separate studies, see Patrick McGill, ‘The Senate in Northern Ireland, 1921 –62’ (Belfast: unpublished Queen’s University PhD thesis, 1965) and Richard Rose, Northern Ireland: a Time of Choice, (London: Macmillan, 1976) pp. 111 –16.Google Scholar
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© Ian McAllister 1977

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  • Ian McAllister

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