Return to: Search Page or to: Table of Contents Vol. 20, Issue 1

Meital Balmas, Gideon Rahat, Tamir Sheafer, and Shaul R Shenhav, "Two routes to personalized politics: Centralized and decentralized personalization," Party Politics, 20 (January 2014), 37-51. [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol20/issue1/ ]

First paragraph:
Personal politics have always been part and parcel of politics, which is, after all, a product of interactions between individuals. Indeed, the reliance of political leadership on personal character has long been recognized (Farrell, 1971, cited in Poguntke and Webb, 2005b). However, in recent decades, several scholars have noted a trend of increasing personalization in democratic politics. Studies show a mutual process of growing centrality of the individual together with a decrease in the power of political groupings such as political parties, parliaments and cabinets (Blumler and Kavanagh, 1999; Mazzoleni and Schulz, 1999; McAllister, 2007; Poguntke and Webb, 2005a; Rahat and Sheafer, 2007; Wattenberg, 1991). Despite this growing interest in personalization, there remains a need for a conceptual and theoretical understanding of it and of its potential influence on democratic politics.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Centralized and decentralized personalization: Types, sub-types and empirical evidence of their existence in established democracies.
Figure 1. The number of party lists that included the name of their leader in their official name in the elections, 1949-2009.
Figure 2. Centralized personalization in media election coverage.
Figure 3. Decentralized personalization in election coverage: Media focus on junior party candidates.
Figure 4. Centralized personalization in news coverage of the government.
Figure 5. Centralized personalization in parties' campaign communication.
Figure 6. Decentralized personalization in campaign communication.
Figure 7. Ministers and deputy ministers per coalition member.
Figure 8. First person singular per total words in speeches, 1949-2009.
Figure 9. Centralized behavioural personalization of voters.

Last Paragraph:
(econd paragraph of discussion) This article suggests that political personalization implies changes in power distribution in two possible directions: on the one hand, it can foster a centralized dynamic in which more power flows up to the leadership, while, on the other, it can imply decentralization, which diffuses power from groups to the individuals of which various political groupings are composed. This means that the balance of power is significantly changing, flowing up (to party leaders, prime ministers) and down (to individual politicians within each party or to cabinet members). In both cases the losers in these processes are the teams, parties and cabinets, and the gainers are individual politicians. Such processes do not balance or offset each other; rather they imply a highly significant change, especially for parliamentary democracies whose starting point is more party-centred and whose basic institutional structure is built on collectives, parties and cabinets.

Last updated March 2014