Public Choice

, Volume 158, Issue 3–4, pp 577–588 | Cite as

Institutions, information, and faction: an experimental test of Riker’s federalism thesis for political parties

  • John Aldrich
  • Michael MungerEmail author
  • Jason Reifler

As nearly all observers have pointed out, political parties are highly decentralized in the United States. They lack unity on a national level with respect to both platforms and leaders… The consequence is, not that states control national decisions—it would take more than local control of nominations to bring about that effect—but that the nation cannot control state decisions. The result is a standoff, which is what, I suppose, is intended in the federal bargain. (Riker 1964: 91)


This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of William Riker’s landmark Liberalism Against Populism(LAP). One of the authors (Aldrich) of the current paper was a Rochester graduate student in the early 1970s. He had seen William Riker pursue the insights and background for the book over the previous decade. Among Rochester graduate students, many of the theoretical claims that underpinned Riker’s argument had been developed, refined, and tested in seminars and discussions. In a...


William Riker Federalism Strategic voting Primaries Elections 



The authors acknowledge the financial assistance of the National Science Foundation. We also thank, without implicating, Alexandra Cooper and the staff of SSRI for assistance in conducting the survey research. And we acknowledge the comments and suggestions Geoffrey Brennan, Amy McKay, Nicholas Miller, and David Rohde on earlier drafts. Finally, we appreciate the very helpful comments of Nikolai Hoberg, Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard, Sarah Necker, and Florenz Plassmann at the Public Choice World Congress in March, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Any errors or infelicities that remain are entirely the fault of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA

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