Party Membership in Brazil: Age and Polity Size in a Longitudinal Perspective (1980-2014)

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 11:05
Location: Hörsaal 5A G (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Pedro J. FLORIANO RIBEIRO, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, Federal University of Sao Carlos, Brazil
Luis LOCATELLI, Federal University of Sao Carlos, Brazil
Several studies have pointed to the decline of membership-based politics in Europe, with a growing gap between members and citizens in terms of age (Scarrow and Gezgor, 2010; Van Biezen, Mair and Poguntke, 2011). In Latin America, exploratory studies have suggested that membership levels are much higher (Dosek, 2014). According to the Brazil’s Electoral Court, there are 15 million party members in the country, nearly 11% of the national electorate. The figure is impressive, not only because it is a new democracy, but also because it is expected that large polities have lower membership levels (Mair and Van Biezen, 2001; Weldon, 2006). Using an original dataset with the dates of birth and membership of millions of Brazilians who joined the parties between 1980 and 2014, this paper explores two main hypotheses. The first evaluate whether the Brazilian party members are becoming older, comparing 1) the age of new members over time and 2) the age of new members and the national electorate in each year. The second hypothesis explores the effects of the size of the polities on membership levels in a very favorable situation for a comparative analysis. As a federal state, the regional level is an important locus of power in Brazilian politics. There are high levels of heterogeneity in terms of size, socioeconomic characteristics and structure of competition across the 27 states. Nevertheless, the electoral and membership rules are identical between them, the major parties are present in all regions, and exclusively regional or local parties are prohibited (all parties are multilevel organizations). We compare, thus, the current and historical membership levels (since 1980) between the states. The paper tries to contribute to a greater understanding of party membership in Brazil, comparing the Brazilian case to the recent findings about Europe and Latin America.