Trends and Cycles. the Dynamics of Party Membership in the Multi-Level System of Germany, 1991-2015

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 10:55
Location: Hörsaal 5A G (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Tim SPIER, University of Siegen, Germany
Political parties in most Western European countries have declining memberships. While this well documented general trend has received considerable academic attention, with various macro-level theories like value change, new modes of participation or declining political trust being put forward to explain this secular phenomenon, little is known about the trajectories of individual parties. Despite a general trend, political parties should be able to recruit and retain members under specific meso-level conditions we would like to examine in the proposed paper: Is there any evidence of a mobilizing effect of local-, state- and/or national-level elections, like an electoral cycle influencing the development of party memberships? Or is membership dependent on the popularity of a specific party, gaining or losing members in a bandwagon effect as their support in the electorate changes? Finally, does it make a difference for recruitment and retention if a party is in government or opposition?

Analyzing these conditions in a multi-level system like the Federal Republic of Germany allows us to address meso-level explanations in a most similar cases design, holding constant potential socio-cultural, political-institutional or economical differences, while substantially enlarging the number of cases. Applying a three level hierarchical model, we want to analyze the membership development of 5 established parties in the 16 states of Germany over a period of 25 years in this paper using a balanced time-series cross-section dataset of 2,000 observations. The dependent variable is the member/electorate ratio of a state party indicating its relative membership strength. While controlling for the general trend of declining party memberships we should be able to test various party- and state-level explanations for gains and losses in membership strength with this multi-level approach.