Return to: Search Page or to: Table of Contents Vol. 13, issue 2

Jeffrey A. Karp and Susan A. Banducci, "Party Mobilization and Political Participation in New and Old Democracies," Party Politics, 13 (March 2007), 217-234.

First paragraph:
Political participation is widely believed to be an important indicator of the health and vitality of democracy. Political parties can help to facilitate participation by encouraging citizens to become engaged in the political process. This pivotal role for parties in engaging citizens was recognized 40 years ago to be particularly important in emerging democracies, where parties serve as the primary instruments of political socialization (Weiner and LaPalombara, 1966). Recent literature on new democracies has also emphasized this important role of political parties (Kitschelt et al., 1999;Lipset, 1994; Mainwaring, 1999). In this article, we use survey data from a range of countries that include both new and old democracies to examine how citizens' contact with political parties in the context of a national election stimulates political participation. We find that citizens from new democracies are less likely to be contacted by parties and candidates and are consequently less likely to be engaged in the political process. There are,moreover, predictable differences in campaign activity across new and old democracies. Nevertheless, party mobilization matters and is a significant predictor of not only voting but other forms of political engagement in both new and old democracies.

Figures and Tables:
Figure 1. Party contact by new and old democracies
Table 1. Explaining party mobilization
Table 2. Political participation by old and new democracies
Figure 2. Relationship between party mobilization and campaign involvement
Table 3. Mobilization and political participation

First Paragraph of Conclusion:
Our results confirm that parties serve an important function in electoral politics. When citizens are contacted by parties they are more likely to vote and more likely to participate in the campaign than are citizens who are not contacted. Furthermore, citizens are not likely to be contacted at random. Some parties invest heavily in their mobilization efforts and are likely to be more successful when they are able to target their potential supporters and those likely to vote. Our analysis suggests that parties in new democracies are more likely to target specific types of voters. This is surprising given the fact that parties in these democracies are almost certainly less professionalized than those in the established democracies. Although we have no data on campaign finance, we might assume that parties in new democracies are not as well funded and consequently must be more careful with how they allocate their resources. Cross-national differences in levels of reported contact do suggest that parties in new democracies are likely to reach fewer voters. The exceptions are Brazil and the Czech Republic, where the level of contact is greater than in most of the countries in our sample.

last updated February 2007