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Richard Herrera, "The Origins of Opinion of American Party Activists," Party Politics, 5 (April 1999), 237-252.

First Paragraph:
In representative democracies, political parties perform a variety of functions that maintain and foster democratic governance. Perhaps the most important role they play is that of a linkage between the governed and the governors. Parties, through their activists, are the conduits through which information about preferences held by the citizenry are transmitted to elected officials (Key, 1964: 200-3, 218-20). They also dispatch information about politics to the electorate to inform, educate and lead public opinion (Berelson et al., 1954; McClosky and Zaller, 1984); Carmines and Stimson, 1989). Hence, political parties are originators as well as receptors of the views held by citizens about political affairs. The capacity of political parties to be good learners as well as skilled educators is, to a great degree, dependent on the characteristics and motivations of its active members.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1: Delegates' reasons for political involvement (%).
Table 2: The effects of electoral incentives and candidate support on activists' ideological self-placement, 1988.
Table 3: The effects of electoral incentives and candidate support on activists' ideological self-placement, 1992.

Last Paragraph:
The forces that mold and shape the opinions of American political parties, while variable, appear to point in the same direction for both Republicans and Democrats. What appears to matter most, regardless of party, are the candidates who choose to take advantage of the loosely coupled party nomination process. When 'non-traditional' candidates enter the fray they activate segments of the party and shape the views of those party activists who in turn can be expected to influence the views of rank-and-file partisans as they play the role of opinion leaders. A patty's structure of opinion at any one time will depend on the would-be leaders of the party who choose to either stimulate followers or stifle potential activists.