New Leaders, New Members? the Impact of Party Leadership Renewal on Party Membership

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal 5A G (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Giulia SANDRI, Universite Catholique de Lille, France
Antonella SEDDONE, Université Catholique de Lille, France
Longitudinal data show a generalized decline in aggregate country-level membership figures (Mair and van Biezen 2001; van Biezen, Mair and Poguntke 2011; Whiteley 2011; Gauja and van Haute, 2015). Party-level explanations for membership fluctuations, based on party organizational features, seem particularly relevant when taking into account the generalized and recent process of party change that is ongoing in several advanced democracies (Dalton, Farrell and Mc Allister, 2011; Pettitt, 2014; Pilet and Cross, 2014; Sandri et al., 2015). The distinct but combined processes of personalization (Poguntke and Webb, 2005; Blondel and Thiebault, 2010) and democratization (Cross and Katz, 2013) of party organizational features could contribute in explaining the fluctuations and long-term trends of party membership. If the intra-party role and public image of party leaders become increasingly central to party dynamics, a change in party leadership and a process of renewal of leaders’ features (in terms of political attitudes, age, gender, level of political seniority) could affect the recruitment processes and the parties’ capacity to retain its members. The selection of a new, maybe younger or more radical party leader, especially when implemented via inclusive methods, could attract new members, even if just in the short term. Our research question, thus, asks whether a change in the party leadership or in its main political and socio-economic features could affect party membership size in the sense of increasing incentives for joining. We consider party leadership change and renewal, as the main independent variable of the study, which could explain the variations in membership levels. We use two international datasets that were recently made available: MAPP's party members' dataset (van Haute and Gauja, 2015) which provides merged data of membership figures in over than thirty nations, and leadership selection dataset (Pilet and Cross, 2014) which provides data on thirteen nations.