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POLITICAL GEOGRAPHY QUARTERLY, Vol. 2, No. 3, July 1983, 179-203
How well does 'region' explain political party characteristics?

Department of Political Science, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60201, USA

Department of Political Science, University of Illinois at Chicago Circle, Chicago, IL 60680, USA

ABSTRACT. Region is presumed to have an 'effect' on the characteristics of political parties, causing parties in the same region of the world to be 'different' from parties in other regions. The nature and extent of differences in party characteristics within and between regions have not previously been systematically investigated. This paper applies the analysis of variance to 11 organizational characteristics of 147 political parties. The parties came from 53 countries representing a stratified random sample of party systems in 10 cultural-geographic regions of the world. The study finds significant differences between the regional groupings of parties on all characteristics, with region predicting from 11 to 52 per cent of the variance in individual party traits. A separate discriminant analysis of parties grouped into a First-Second-Third World typology shows that 90 per cent of the parties can be correctly classified in 'their' world on the basis of their organizational characteristics.

Political scientists often resort to regional concepts when explaining the characteristics of political parties. For example, Sartori notes that 'the literature on Latin American parties incessantly speaks of factionalism, personalism, and the like' (1976: 82). Pye suggests that 'the floundering of the party systems of Asia is ... a reflection of the persisting difficulties of these societies in achieving a workable balance between traditional and modem, between the parochial and the universal' (1966: 372). Many others (e.g. LaPalombara and Weiner, 1966; Blondel, 1969, 1972; Roth and Wilson, 1976) emphasize similarities among parties within regions. Given political scientists' fondness for regional concepts in analyzing party politics, one justifiably asks, 'How well does "region" explain political party characteristics?'

This paper investigates two aspects of this theoretical question with evidence on 11 variables from 147 parties in 53 countries grouped into 10 regions of the world.' First: how much variation in party characteristics can be attributed to differences in political cultures among regions? Second: if there is significant regional variation in these individual characteristics, what configuration best differentiates the parties into regions? We begin by discussing the concept of region and its potential for explaining political institutions.

(On this web site, the article is accessible by sections by clicking on the heading below.)
The concept of region

Measuring party concepts and regional effects

Table 1: Scale Scores for 11 Traits of 147 Parties in 53 Countries

Discriminant Analysis of parties into regions

Summary and Conclusions