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Markus Wagner, "Defining and measuring niche parties," Party Politics, 18 (November, 2012), 845-864. [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol18/issue6/ ]

First paragraph:
Recently, a number of scholars have suggested that niche parties are different from their mainstream competitors (Adams et al., 2006; Ezrow, 2008, 2010; Jensen and Spoon, 2010; Meguid, 2005, 2008). Niche parties, it is argued, not only diverge programmatically from the mainstream, they also differ from other parties in their electoral strategies, their roles in political institutions and in the way they are evaluated by voters. However, given this attention paid to this type of party, there is little agreement on how to define niche parties and how to measure their existence.

Figures and Tables:
Figure 1. Schematic representation of niche and mainstream parties
Table 1. Niche party measurement in expert surveys and manifesto data
Figure 2. Niche parties according to expert surveys and party manifestos
Table 2. Comparison between Meguid and direct expert survey coding
Table 3. Niche party membership of party families
Table 4. Niche-party characteristics (1): age, size, party system size
Table 5. Niche-party characteristics (2): policy extremism

Last Paragraph:
Niche parties are thus an empirical reality: there is an identifiable group of (newer and smaller) parties that differ programmatically from their mainstream competitors. Yet, this concept is important beyond this empirical pattern, as the strategies and systemic role of niche parties may differ from those of mainstream parties. These differences between mainstream and niche parties deserve further attention. Finally, the definitional and measurement approach in this article has itself thrown up further questions. For example, there are parties that move in and out of niche-party status, a possibility that previous approaches have disregarded. Why do some mainstream parties become niche parties and vice versa? Future research should examine the strategic reasons behind these ideological shifts.

Last updated November 2012