Return to: Search Page or to: Table of Contents Vol. 16, Issue 5

Kimberly H. Conger, "Party Platforms and Party Coalitions: The Christian Right and State-Level Republicans," Party Politics, 16 (September, 2010), 651-668. [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol16/issue5/ ]

First paragraph:
Unlike their counterparts in other political systems, American political parties do not have the luxury of representing a single unified and identifiable social group. The nature of the two-party system is such that political parties in the United States must create coalitions of different interests in order to gain electoral victories. These coalitions function at the mass level as individuals make decisions about the most important issues for candidates to address (Axelrod, 1972, 1986). This logic of coalition extends to the relationships among party elites, but certainly entails a more intentional set of negotiations among actors in order to produce a united front (Green and Guth, 1994). These coalitions within parties are more than just variations in ideology, they represent distinct factions with interests that vary on a range of issues. Democrats are widely considered to be a coalition of groups with specific interests: feminists, environmentalists, African-Americans, gays and lesbians, and so forth. The Republican Party, which is the focus of this article, is generally considered to have at least three coalition members: business conservatives, social conservatives, and libertarians. These are less specifically linked to group interests, but these interests form the Republican coalition by negotiating their differences in ways that allow them to present a united front to voters at election time.

Figures and Tables:
Figure 1. Christian Right issues in Republican platform paragraphs
Table 1. Extent of Christian Right influence in state Republican Party platforms: dependent variable
Table 2. The Christian Right in state Republican Party platforms 2000: OLS regression results
Appendix A. Permeability Index Calculations

Last Paragraph:
(First paragraph of Conclusions) Coalitions within a political party help to determine the goals and strategies of the party. Understanding the make-up of these coalitions and the conditions from which they derive provide us with a new understanding of the internal workings of political parties. Using state Republican Party platforms, I have demonstrated that the Christian Right is an identifiable coalition member within the Republican Party, and that the movement's influence - and the Republican coalition - is based in part on both the conservatism of party elites and the influence of the movement itself within the party. This takes us beyond previous research by demonstrating that party coalitions are a function not simply of general party elite ideology, but of specific relationships and negotiations within the party about its main public pronouncement, the platform.

Last updated August 2010