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Political Parties and Elections: Research Papers


The course syllabus states:

This course requires a paper, not more than 7 pages double-spaced, based on your own research into political parties and election systems in other countries. The paper should analyze the contest against the theories and findings covered in your readings and discussed in class. Additional explanation of the research paper, which is due Nov. 24, will be described later on the class web page.

Given that there are over 100 students in the class, I am enlarging the scope of permissible topics to include comparative analysis of state parties and election systems as well as nations. You may choose from different topics within each of these levels of analyis.

Click HERE for information on paper content and form

Comparing Nations

This route requires you to compare the United States with at least one other country on one of the following aspects of their political dynamics:

Party structure

The Keefe book describes the structure of the two major American political parties. The book, Party Organizations: A Data Handbook in Western Democracies, 1960-1990, presents a wealth of information on how major parties are organized in other countries. Note that choosing this option leads you to focus on the parties as the units of analysis, not the nations.


Electoral system

The Farrell book explains the variety of systems used to elect candidates to national legislatures in other countries. Compare the system used to nominate and elect members of the U.S. Congress with the system used in the nation or nations of your choice.


Party competition and Electoral volatility

The reading by Blondel classifies party systems by the number of parties in the system, and the one by Pedersen assesses the "volatility" or stability of the system from one election to another. Compare election results in the U.S. with those in the country of your choice and discuss the implications for politics in each nation.


Partisanship in other nations

For those of you who have knowledge of computer analysis of statistical data, I am making available an SPSS file from the Comparative Election Study. This might be an especially attractive option to those who are taking C10 Statistics concurrently with C24 Political Parties.

Websites to consult if you are comparing nations

Comparative Politics

Cross-National Analysis and Studies

Politics within Nations

Elections and Electoral Systems

Comparative Political Parties

International Survey Organizations

Comparing States

This route requires you to compare at least two of the American states on one of the following aspects of their political dynamics.

Party structure

The Keefe book does not say much about state party structure, but State Party Profiles, by Appleton and Ward, reports on both parties for all 50 states. Unfortunately, our library does not have this book, but I have ordered a copy and have placed it on reserve. You can also learn a great deal about party structures from state government web sites and sites maintained by individual parties. A second invaluable source is David R. Mayhew's Placing Parties in American Politics (1986), which will also be on reserve. Mayhew discusses all 50 states and scores them for strength of "traditional party organizations."


Electoral system

State Party Profiles will also discuss each state's electoral system, to some extent, but here you will have to rely more on websites run by offices of secretaries of state. The Book of the States in the reference room has tables showing how many offices are elected in each state, which type of ballot is used, whether the state holds open or closed primaries, registration requirements, and so on. The Mayhew book (above) will also be useful.


Party competition and Electoral volatility

On page 57, Keefe prints a schema for analyzing party competition in selected American states. This schema and other classification systems are discussed in Politics of the American States, which I have placed on reserve. No one seems to have calculated Pedersen's volatility index for American states, so you do it. Do your states differ much on electoral volatility? How do they compare with the volatility of elections to the U.S. House? Mayhew's Placing Parties in American Politics will prove very helpful on this topic.

Websites to consult if you are comparing states

U.S. Political Parties and Elections

U.S. Parties

Election Campaigns

Election Results and Aministration

Presidential Elections

Political Participation

For links to information sources by individual states, go here