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Political Research Exchange - PRX

Political Parties as Arena for Descriptive Representation

Parties and elections

Workshop Director
Bram Wauters
Ghent University
Workshop Co-Director
Knut Heidar
Universitetet i Oslo

26/04/2017 09:00 - 17:00
Building: Business School South Room: Room A06
The crisis of ‘party on the ground’, which refers to the link of the party to the broader society has already been extensively documented in several studies. One aspect that has been underexposed in this kind of research is to what extent party decline has also affected parties’ representative capacity.
This may relate both to descriptive (background) representation and to attitudinal (policy) representation. In political parties, several representative relationships are established, for example between rank and file members and conference delegates, between members and the party elite, between voters and the party elite and between party members and the population at large. One can doubt to what extent these relationships are representative in descriptive terms, i.e. to what extent these representatives share characteristics of those who they intend to represent. In other words, whether women, blue collar workers, young people, ethnic minorities, etc. are present in (one of the layers of) the party.

It seems logical that owing to a general decline in membership figures, also this descriptive representation is put under pressure. But the few empirical studies undertaken in this area question this general assumption. In addition, levels of party membership vary between countries, so that even parties that have experienced dramatic falls in membership could still have comparatively high membership levels. The puzzle is whether massive membership loss will trigger a crisis in parties’ representativeness. This will not necessarily be the case. Alternatively, the crisis of party representativeness is – as indicated by the political participation literature – intrinsic to all high intensity participation modes.

We seek papers mapping descriptive representation within different strata in parties (especially in comparative perspective: either across parties, across countries and/or across strata in the party), and papers investigating causes and/or consequences of the overrepresentation or underrepresentation of particular social groups.

Paper List

Title Details
Descriptive Representation Within Political Parties: A Cross-Strata Examination from the Ground Up View Paper Details
Diversity among Belgian Party Members and its Consequences View Paper Details
Engaging Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities in Australian Party Politics View Paper Details
If They Don't have Bread, Let Them Use Quotas! Representation of Minority Interest Through the Use of Quotas in the Case of Israel View Paper Details
Loosing Members and Winning Votes? Pachakutik and Indigenous Representation in Ecuador View Paper Details
Lost Connection? The Representativeness of the Social Democratic Elites and their Rank and File in Flanders View Paper Details
Misguided Descriptive and Attitudinal Representation: The Republican Party and the Rise of Trumpism View Paper Details
No Space for Women at the Top? The Reproduction of Male Dominance in Europe’s New Democracies View Paper Details
Party System Change and its Effects on Spanish Party Elite’s Descriptive Representation View Paper Details
Purified or All the Same? Member – Voter Congruence in Denmark and Norway View Paper Details
Still Connected? The Attitudinal Representativeness of German Party Memberships View Paper Details
The Consequences of Membership Incentives: Do Net Benefits Attract Different Kinds of Members? View Paper Details
The Political Representation and the Provincial Government in Spain View Paper Details
The Politics of the Pool: Candidate Recruitment by Political Parties in Canada View Paper Details
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