Issues and Party Alignments: A Review with Canadian Examples
- 155 Downloads
This paper reviews some theory on the role of issues in the maintenance and disruption of party alignments and applies the theory to two realignments, 1896-1900 and 1957-63, of the Canadian system. It argues that the multidimensionality which is typical of electoral choice helps explain the tendency of parties to abandon the median. This in turn helps explain why social differences in party preference exist and it also sheds light on how alignments can change rapidly. It less helpful in accounting for the indefinite persistence of such group differences. An implication is that an alignment’s persistence requires implicit agreement, including between parties, to restrict the agenda.
TIlis paper takes on two complementary tasks. It begins with a review of theory on the role of issues in the maintenance and disruption of party alignments. It ends with an account of two realignments in the Canadian system.
The history and the theory inform each other: the Canadian examples illustrate points in the theoretical review, but the theory allows the paper to propose novel interpretations of those same events.
The literature inspired by Downs (1957) on issues in elections seems hard to square with the very idea of party alignment. The dominant result emphasizes the pivotal role of the median voter and yields a competition between parties which should evoke little or no social differentiation in electoral response, except to the extent that actors apart from the mass electorate, activists, constrain their respective parties. The dominance of the median in these models seems to rest on the assumption that the issue arena has only one dimension.
The reality of mass elections includes parties, even Canadian ones, whose bases are differentiated. The social differences in questioncommonly persist for many decades. But the history of party systems is also punctuated by realignments, changes in the base of the system, some of the most profound of which have occurred very quickly. Large and rapid change can be accommodated to issue voting models by expanding the number of issue dimensions in play, an insight we owe to Riker (1982). But expanding the dimensionality of the game makes the task of explaining the endurance of alignments harder. Again, we are forced to consider factors outside the mass electorate.
Working through the theory will help us identify the ways in which an alignment can be disrupted. The Canadian examples will illustrate two of these mechanisms in action.
KeywordsIdeal Point Median Voter Party System Condorcet Winner American Political Science Review
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Berger, Carl.The Sense of Power: Studies in the Ideas of Canadian Imperialism 1867–1914.Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970Google Scholar
- Berthelet, D. “Agriculture Canada Policy and Expenditure Patterns 18681983.”Canadian Farm Economics19 (1985): 5–15Google Scholar
- Black, Duncan.Theory of Committees and Elections.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1958Google Scholar
- Bothwell, Robert, Ian Drummond, and John English.Canada Since 1945: Power Politics and Provincialism. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1981Google Scholar
- Carmines, Edward G. and James A. Stimson.Issue Evolution: Race and the Transformation of American Politics.Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989Google Scholar
- Cox, Gary. “Electoral Equilibrium in Multicandidate Elections: Plurality vs. Approval Voting.” Austin: University of Texas, working paper, 1983Google Scholar
- Crunican, Paul.Priests and Politicians: Manitoba Schools and the election of 1896.Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974Google Scholar
- Dalton, Roy C.The Jesuits’ Estates Question 1760–1888.Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1968Google Scholar
- Downs, Anthony.An Economic Theory of Democracy.New York:Harper and Row, 1957Google Scholar
- Duverger, MauricePolitical Parties.New York:Wiley, 1963Google Scholar
- Enelow, J. M.and M. J. Hinich.The Spatial Theory of Voting: an Introduction.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984Google Scholar
- Hinich, Melvin J. and Peter C. Ordeshook. “Plurality Maximization vs Vote Maximization: a Spatial Analysis with Variable Participation.”American Political Science Review64 (September, 1970): 772–791. Upset, Seymour Martin and Stein Rokkan.Party Systems and Voter Alignments.New York: Free Press, 1967Google Scholar
- Lupul, Manoly R.The Roman Catholic Church and the North-West School Question: a Study of Church-State Relations in Western Canada.Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974Google Scholar
- Perlin, George C.The Tory Syndrome.Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1980Google Scholar
- Penlington, Norman.Canada and Imperialism 1896–1899.Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1965Google Scholar
- Plott, Charles. “A Notion of Equilibrium and its Possibility under Majority Rule.“American Economic Review57 (1967): 787–806Google Scholar
- Rae, Douglas W.The Political Consequences of Electoral Laws.New Haven: Yale University Press, 1971 [2/e]Google Scholar
- Riker, William H.Liberalism Against Populism: a Confrontation Between the Theory of Democracy and the Theory of Social Choice.San Francisco: Freeman, 1982Google Scholar
- Sissons, C. B.Church and State in Canadian Education.Toronto: Ryerson, 1959Google Scholar
- Skogstad, Grace.The Politics of Agricultural Policy-Making in Canada.Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987Google Scholar
- Stacey, C. P.Canada in the Age of Conflict Vol. 1. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984Google Scholar