Partisanship and Party Ideology: Comparing Canada and the United States of America


Essay, 2007
17 Pages, Grade: 1,7

Excerpt

Index

1. Introduction

2. Defining Party Identification

3. Factors in Party Identification

4. Democrats and Republicans

5. Ideological Self Placement of American Partisans

6. Ideological Self-Placement of Canadian Partisans 1984

7. The 1993 Elections in Canada

8. Ideological Self-Placement of Canadian Partisans 2000

9. Conclusion

10. Sources

1. Introduction

Canada and the United States of America have equally developed a form of structural federalism, both use a single-member plurality election system and have similar social and economic class structures. In contrast to the two-party tradition of the US in a presidential system, Canada has developed a multiparty parliamentary system in which the legislative parties are cohesive and disciplined due to the historical influence of British Westminster System.1 In general party identification has been defined as “an attachment to a party that helps the citizen locate him/herself and others on the political landscape.”2 The aim of this paper is to explore the possibility of shifts in ideological party identification with respect to the significantly different party systems in Canada and the United States, with special focus on the time span between 1984 and 2000. The central question discussed in this paper is whether or not there has been a significant change in partisan ideology in Canada compared to the United States between 1984 and 2000, and whether Canadian Partisans are more volatile compared to their southern counterparts in terms of ideological party identification. The Canadian elections in 1993 have definitely had significant impact for Canadian politics in the 1990’s. The evolving of the traditional and stable “two and a half” party system in Canadian politics into a multiparty system can be linked to various theories and reasons. These include economical, social and regional issues in Canada’s political landscape. One aim of this paper is to identify and locate some of the factors which might have caused a change, or possibly a sudden rise, in Canadian partisan ideology between 1984 and 1993, and compare this to the stable two party system in the US with respect to partisan volatility. This also leads to the question whether the elections in 1993 have significantly changed or perhaps awoken a sense of party ideology amongst Canadian partisans, which had been unprecedented to that point in time. This intended comparative approach between Canadian and US Partisan ideological evolvement should also briefly explore if general key criteria can be defined when speaking of a “partisan” of a political party and give a short introduction of political positions which parties occupy in both countries.

2. Defining Party Identification

Party identification has been termed as a crucial concept in the study of voter behaviour, even though there is no general consensus over how a specific measure of party identification can be determined. The term “party identification” has previously been defined in the following way: Party identification is an attachment to a party that helps the citizen locate him/herself and others on the political landscape. As thus conceived, partisans are partisan because they think they are partisan. They are not necessarily partisan because they vote like a partisan, or think like a partisan, or register like a partisan, or because someone else thinks they are a partisan. In the strict sense, they are not even partisan because they like one party more than another. Partisanship as party identification is entirely a matter of self-definition.3

With respect to similarities between the US and Canadian political systems , both countries have similar proportions of their national voters defining themselves as having a political party identification.4 Partisanship can be seen as a “label” that’s helps us simplify our political world in the sense that being a partisan of a political party basically provides information about a person’s allegiances and preferences.5 The importance of partisanship should be seen in close connection with the important role which political parties occupy in a democracy. The general idea that a political party is an organization designed to try and win control of government by electing people to public offices, and at the same time recruiting and supporting their candidates against candidates of other political parties in competitive elections, has maintained itself until the present. Many political scientist agree that political parties are essential in a working democracy. According to E.E. Schattschneider:“…political parties created democracy and… modern democracy is unthinkable save in terms of the parties.”6 Analysing party identification is important because it gives political scientists the possibility to observe, interpret and predict how voter behaviour can change and develop in a democratic society.

The first modern studies of partisan identification in the United States in terms of voter loyalty to a political party have their origins in the works of Belknap and Campbell (1952). In these early studies of the 20th century party identification “was viewed as an effective bond having the potential to influence individual beliefs, attitudes, opinions, and actions.”7 The outcome of these studies showed that approximately 66% of the American voters would not change in terms of partisan identification during the course of an individual’s life, with the very limited exception of rare and extreme occasions such as war or depression.8 In contrast to the American scholars, the Canadian scientist John Meisel revealed very different numbers concerning partisan identification in Canada in his studies from 1965. In Meisel’s studies “only 49 % of those interviewed had never changed their partisan identification and only 58% identified with a single party at both the national and provincial levels.”9 This led to the widespread assumption that unlike in the US, Canadian partisanship was defined by a much lower level of stability during the 1960’s. It should be mentioned that there were various opposing opinions to Meisel’s interpretations, such as that of LeDuc who said that “not all Canadians are weak, unstable, or inconsistent partisans.”10

3. Factors in Party Identification

When speaking of party identification it is interesting and helpful to determine and differentiate between the various factors which come into play when an individual is defined as a “partisan” of a political party and supporter of a certain “ideology”. In the United States party identification in the past has often developed in close connection with factors such as heritage, education, profession, residency, as well as ethnic and religious backgrounds.11 Generally speaking an individual from the suburban area of Kansas or Pennsylvania would statistically tend to vote for the Republican Party, while someone from Alabama or Georgia would more likely be a voter of the Democratic Party. It is often argued that in general significant differences in party ideology between the two big US parties can be defined.12 This has been linked to the assumption that many voters in the US tend to support their party’s political position on public issues, even if the individual’s knowledge of the content of the issues may be extremely limited.13 In this sense the partisan needs to feel that his or her party has taken a firm position on a political issue with some obvious difference to the other party.

In the United States, despite periodic lamentations that there are virtually no real substantive differences between the two parties, the Democratic Party has generally been viewed by most Americans as emphasizing positions pertaining to equality, the importance of the federal government, the virtue of public action through that government, and the regulation of business. In contrast, Republican rhetoric has tended to emphasize the virtues of state and local governments, business enterprise, the sanctity of private property, the evils of excessive regulation by government, and so forth.14

In terms of traditional ethnic and religious party identification, people coming from white, protestant and Anglo-Saxon backgrounds are statistically in favour of the Republican Party. On the other side voters with Slavic, Italian, Irish and Jewish backgrounds would traditionally be classified as the “political backbone” of the Democratic Party.

4. Democrats and Republicans

The Democratic Party was founded in 1792 by Thomas Jefferson, making it the oldest political party in the world. Since William Jennings Bryan’s takeover of the party in 1896, it has positioned itself to the “left” of the Republican Party in economic and social matters.15 The party has traditionally favoured farmers, labourers, labour unions, as well as religious and ethnic minorities. It has opposed unregulated business and finance and favoured progressive income taxes. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s philosophy termed “liberalism” has shaped much of the party’s agenda since 1932. The “Civil Rights Movement” of the 1960’s managed to inspire and progress the party’s liberal principles against its internal party opposition from its conservative Southern wing.16 The major influences for “liberalism” were the labour unions during the 1936- 1952 era and the African America wing, which has steadily grown since the 1960’s.17 In recent times the Democratic Party advocates civil liberties, social freedoms, equal rights, equal opportunity, fiscal responsibility and a free enterprise system tempered by government intervention in the sense of a “mixed-economy”.18 In this sense it is considered to be the ideological left-sided party in the US.

On the other hand, the Republican Party defines itself as the party of “first principles”, referring to traditional old American values such as individualism, pioneering spirit, anti-centralism and importance of the family. It is often referred to as the “Grand Old Party” and is the more socially conservative as well as economically liberal of the two main parties in the US, thus representing the right side of the political spectrum.19 The Republican Party has traditional ties with the Wall Street (large corporations) and the Main Street (locally owned business) and has little support among labour union leadership. The party generally supports lower taxes and limited government interference in various economic areas, while preferring government intervention in other areas, such as government funded abortions. Since the 1960’s the party has been weakly supported among African Americans, winning under 15% of the black Voters in national elections between 1980 and 2000.20

[...]


1 10 (1) Carty, Kenneth. Political Turbulence in a Dominant Party System. University of British Columbia, Journal: PS: Political Science and Politics, Vol.37, Issue 4, October 2006.

2 3 (2) Blais, Andre and Gidengil, Elisabeth. Measuring Party Identification: Britain, Canada, and the US. Political Behaviour, Vol. 23, No.1, 2001.

3 Blais, Andre and Gidengil, Elisabeth. Measuring Party Identification: Britain, Canada, and the US. Political Behaviour, Vol. 23, No.1, 2001. (p.6)

4 Stephenson, Laura; Scotto, Thomas J.; Kornberg, Allan. Slip, Sliding Away or Le Plus Ca Change: Canadian and American Partisanship in Comparative Perspective. The American Review of Canadian Studies, 2004. (p.301)

5 Stephenson, Laura; Scotto, Thomas J.; Kornberg, Allan. Slip, Sliding Away or Le Plus Ca Change: Canadian and American Partisanship in Comparative Perspective. The American Review of Canadian Studies, 2004. (p.303)

6 Berman, Larry. Approaching Democracy, Fifth Edition. University of California, Lafayette College. (p.241)

7Stephenson, Laura; Scotto, Thomas J.; Kornberg, Allan. Slip, Sliding Away or Le Plus Ca Change: Canadian and American Partisanship in Comparative Perspective. The American Review of Canadian Studies, 2004. (p.285)

8Stephenson, Laura; Scotto, Thomas J.; Kornberg, Allan. Slip, Sliding Away or Le Plus Ca Change: Canadian and American Partisanship in Comparative Perspective. The American Review of Canadian Studies, 2004. (p.285)

9Stephenson, Laura; Scotto, Thomas J.; Kornberg, Allan. Slip, Sliding Away or Le Plus Ca Change: Canadian and American Partisanship in Comparative Perspective. The American Review of Canadian Studies, 2004. (p.285)

10 Stephenson, Laura; Scotto, Thomas J.; Kornberg, Allan. Slip, Sliding Away or Le Plus Ca Change: Canadian and American Partisanship in Comparative Perspective. The American Review of Canadian Studies, 2004. (p.285)

11 Berman, Larry. Approaching Democracy, Fifth Edition. University of California, Lafayette College.

12 Paddock, Joel. State, National Parties and American Democracy. Peterlag Publishing Inc., NY, 2005.

13Stephenson, Laura; Scotto, Thomas J.; Kornberg, Allan. Slip, Sliding Away or Le Plus Ca Change: Canadian and American Partisanship in Comparative Perspective. The American Review of Canadian Studies, 2004. (p.295)

14 Stephenson, Laura; Scotto, Thomas J.; Kornberg, Allan. Slip, Sliding Away or Le Plus Ca Change: Canadian and American Partisanship in Comparative Perspective. The American Review of Canadian Studies, 2004. (p.295)

15 Berman, Larry. Approaching Democracy, Fifth Edition. University of California, Lafayette College.

16 Hershey, Marjory, and Paul Allen Beck. Party Politics in America, 10th ed. New York: Longman Publishers, 2003

17 Hershey, Marjory, and Paul Allen Beck. Party Politics in America, 10th ed. New York: Longman Publishers, 2003

18 www.democrats.org, (site accessed 10.02.07)

19 Gould, Lewis. Grand Old Party: A History of the Republicans. New York: Random House, 2003.

20 Gould, Lewis. Grand Old Party: A History of the Republicans. New York: Random House, 2003. Figure 1 from: Stephenson, Laura; Scotto, Thomas J.; Kornberg, Allan. Slip, Sliding Away or Le Plus Ca Change: Canadian and American Partisanship in Comparative Perspective. The American Review of Canadian Studies, 2004.

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Details

Title
Partisanship and Party Ideology: Comparing Canada and the United States of America
College
Free University of Berlin
Grade
1,7
Author
Year
2007
Pages
17
Catalog Number
V93256
ISBN (eBook)
9783638066198
File size
498 KB
Language
English
Tags
Partisanship, Party, Ideology, Comparing, Canada, United, States, America
Quote paper
Julian Warczinski (Author), 2007, Partisanship and Party Ideology: Comparing Canada and the United States of America, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/93256

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