How intra-party referenda re-vitalize party organizations
A quasi-experimental study on the effects of intra-party democracy
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After the country’s reunification German political parties have lost half of their members.
Parties respond by expanding intra-party participation.
The goal: Re-vitalizing party organizations and motivating more citizens to join.
What we want to know Research Question
Will political parties appear more attractive after expanding participatory rights?
Will attitudes towards their party change after members participated in an intra-party referendum?
Will the relationship between party elites and the rank-and-file change?
How we investigate it Research Design
An unexpected referendum as quasi-experiment
We survey members before and after the referendum…
… and analyse attitude changes for each party member.
The Case Issue-Referendum of CDU Berlin, June 2015
Increases in party-related efficacy Results
- Members evaluate opportunities for intra-party participation more positively.
- Increases higher among members who did not perceive themselves as efficacious before.
- Efficacy increased independent of a member’s voting behavior.
Issue-based leader appraisal Results
- Before the referendum: Elite evaluations are independent of a member’s position on same-sex marriage.
- After the referendum: Members use issue-positions as yardstick to evaluate party elites, if they took a stance on same-sex marriage.
- So, members judge party elites more strongly in terms of issue congruence.
The impact of intra-party participation Conclusion
An issue-referendum has secondary effects beyond the decision outcome itself:
A referendum changes how members perceive their party.
Who is allowed to decide on political, feels empowered in the role as party members.
Members learned during the campaign about intra-party politics and judge party elites more strongly along their own convictions.