Party Membership during Partisan Dealignment and Realignment Phases in Post-War Japan

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 8:30 AM
Room: Booth 45
Oral Presentation
Takayuki YAMAMOTO , Department of Sociology, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
This paper investigates whether an abrupt and drastic realignment trend (i.e. a revitalisation of political support) in Japan since 2000 has changed patterns of political membership, even though Japan had a quite similar political dealignment pattern (i.e. a constant and substantial increase of independent electorates) to advanced industrial democracies in the West until 2000.

Political scientists have pointed out that party membership has constantly declined in contemporary Western democracies. This substantial downward trend has been caused by the widespread political detachment from conventional party politics throughout the post-war period. In Japan, scholars have rarely examined the association between dealignment and political membership, although a long-term dealignment trend throughout the 1960s to the 1990s was observed by newspaper opinion polls and social survey datasets. Furthermore, using the Japanese General Social Surveys (JGSS), this paper clarified that the dealignment trend inverted into realignment since 2000.

The data analyses using Japanese data in the World Values Survey indicated that party membership witnessed an increase of inactive members from 1981 to 1995 and the percentage of these had remained through 1995 to 2005, while the ratio of active members remained stable from 1981 to 2005. In addition, logistic regression models suggested that political interest was a significant predictor throughout 1981 to 2005, however, its explanatory power had been weakening through the periods. Even though Japan entered into a realignment phase since 2000, the growth of partisanship has not led to an increase of party membership.

Japan has a great theoretical potential for contributing both the Western and Asian political membership studies. This is because it has not only a Confucian-style political culture, which is based on strong social ties in a local community, but also political norms highly valued in advanced industrial democracies, such as citizenship, independent individuals, and basic human rights.