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Political Studies (1998), Vol. 46, pp. 61l-632
Effects of Party Organization on Performance during the 'Golden Age' of Parties
Measuring Party Organization

The conceptual framework of the ICPP Project proposed ten major concepts for comparing political parties. We focus on only four dealing specifically with organization: complexity, centralization, involvement, and coherence (reconceptualized for our purposes as 'factionalism').


This concept taps the complexity of regularized procedures for coordinating the efforts of party supporters in executing the party's strategy and tactics.[35] We measured Complexity of Organization with six indicators: Structural Articulation; Intensiveness of Organization; Extensiveness of Organization; Frequency of Local Meetings; Maintaining Records; and Pervasiveness of Organization. Each of these items was measured on a multi-point continuum. Factor analysis of the items for all 158 parties in the original data set showed that a single factor accounted for 52% of the variance among the six items, which formed a scale with reliability of 0.82.[36] The mean level of complexity for our parties was -0.09. The Democrats at 0.14 and the Republicans at 0.01 were slightly above average on complexity of organization, but they were substantially below the more highly organized British parties (Conservatives scored 0.51 and Labour 0.42).


The location and distribution of effective decision making authority within the party are the components of 'Centralization of Power' 7 A centralized party is one that concentrates effective decision-making authority in the national party organs. We tapped the locus of power within a party with eight indicators: Nationalization of Structure; Selecting the National Leader; Selecting Parliamentary Candidates; Allocating Funds; Formulating Policy; Controlling Communications; Administering Discipline; and Leadership Concentration. These items were also scored on a multi-point continuum, factor analysed, and combined into a composite scale with reliability of 0.83.[38] The mean centralization score was -0.14. The Democrats and Republicans were among the least centralized parties in the world, scoring -1.48 and -1.41 respectively--far below the British parties (Conservatives scored 0.41 and Labour 0.2l).[39]


'Involvement' assesses the extent to which party activists or militants are psychologically committed to the party and work to further the party's objectives.[40] This concept was indicated with five items-- Membership Requirements; Membership Participation; Material Incentives; Purposive Incentives; and Doctrinism. These items were also factor analysed and subjected to the same procedures for scale construction, resulting in an Involvement scale with a reliability of 0.78.[41] The mean was -0.04 for all parties. As expected, activists in both the Democratic and Republican parties had low levels of involvement in furthering party objectives, each rating only -0.77. Participation in the Conservative and Labour parties, featured higher levels of involvement (-0.20 and 0.20), with greater involvement shown within the Labour party.


The 'Factionalism' concept captures four sources of intraparty disputes: Ideology. Issues, Leadership, and Strategies or Tactics. Each type of factionalism was scored on a 7-point continuum ranging from 0 (the basis of division was not subject to debate or disagreement among party leaders) to 6 (the matter created a 'large' faction within the party with some formal organization of its own or provoked a split after the beginning of the period). Factionalism of one type tends to spill over into another type, and these four items formed a scale with reliability of 0.71.[42] In the US, suffice it to say that the Democrats were scored higher for ideological and issue factionalism, while Republicans were more factionalized on leadership and strategy. In the UK, the Labour Party was rated as more factionalized than the Conservative Party on every indicator.

Factionalism is certainly an aspect of party organization, but it differs from the other concepts--complexity, centralization, and involvement. Given a particular political environment and their unique goals, parties presumably determine their appropriate levels of complexity, centralization, and involvement. They do not ordinarily settle upon an 'appropriate' amount of factionalism, which occurs in spite of organizational intentions rather than because of them. Because factionalism is not a matter of choice, the variable will be employed only when it helps explain performance.

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