, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 93-115

Parties and Partisanship: A 40-Year Retrospective

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Abstract

The study of political parties and voter partisanship has come full circle in 4 decades. During the 1960s and 1970s numerous scholars advanced the thesis of party decline, contending that party organizations had disintegrated, party influence in government had plummeted, and voter partisanship had eroded. The 1980s and 1990s saw a turnaround in scholarly judgments, however, as first party organizations, then party in government, and finally voter partisanship appeared to strengthen. This article reviews the evidence for the downs and ups of parties, suggesting that the evidence of party resurgence is more equivocal than often realized. The parties subfield currently lacks the theory and theoretical sensitivity that enables us to interpret ambiguous empirical evidence. This contrasts with the congressional subfield where the issues now confronting the parties subfield were recognized a decade ago.