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Acta Politica

, Volume 52, Issue 2, pp 218–240 | Cite as

Challenges of political participation and intra-party democracy: Bittersweet symphony from party membership and primary elections in Italy

Original Article

Abstract

In this article, we explore the impact of intra-party democratization processes on party membership. We analyze the opinions and attitudes of enrolled members on intra-party democracy instruments and on the use of open primaries. We investigate, with original data sets on Italy, the relationship between primaries and party members. How do enrolled members perceive internal democratization and primaries? Which factors contribute to explaining grassroots members’ opinion on primaries? We use the case of the Italian Democratic Party (PD) to argue that different subsets of the party membership (divided into new-style and old-style members, on the basis of their relationship with the party and their participatory style) have different views on primaries. Quantitative analysis of survey data on party members reveals two main findings. Our first result is that members approve and positively assess the adoption of new procedures of intra-party democracy. Second, membership style matters: old-style members react to the adoption of primary elections differently than new-style members. Indeed, old-style members understand primaries as a renovated chance of participating in the party’s activities, whereas for new-style members primaries give the opportunity for a new mode of participation. Our findings contribute to the existing empirical research on intra-party democracy and party membership, and have important implications for the triangular link between parties, members and primaries.

Keywords

political parties party members primary elections intra-party democracy 

Notes

Acknowledgements

A first version of this paper has been presented at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association. We thank the participants of the panel, as well as the anonymous reviewers, for their comments and suggestions. We would like to thank the research group Candidate and Leader Selection and Tore Corona of the Italian Democratic Party for their help in the data collection. A special thank is to Fulvio Venturino.

Supplementary material

41269_2016_10_MOESM1_ESM.docx (67 kb)
online Appendix

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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luca Bernardi
    • 1
  • Giulia Sandri
    • 2
  • Antonella Seddone
    • 2
  1. 1.University of LeicesterLeicesterUK
  2. 2.European School of Political and Social Sciences, Université Catholique de LilleLilleFrance

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