Current Institutional Affiliation
Professor, Political Science, Northwestern University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2004
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Political Science, University of California / Berkeley
Party System Collapse in South America: Voters, Party Organization, and Adaptation

In Venezuela and Peru, the traditional party systems have collapsed since 1980. In Argentina, one of the two main parties collapsed, but the other has survived. In many other Latin American countries, such party system crises have not occurred. This project will seek to explain such contrasts. The research will explore two aspects of these changes: changes in voting decisions by individuals in each country, and strategic decision-making by party leaders. Analysis of electoral and survey data will test the hypotheses that voters abandon traditional parties because of economic voting, corruption, or divergence in ideological position between them and the parties. Interviews with party leaders, at both the local and the national level, will provide the basis for both qualitative and statistical analysis of party decision-making. The emphasis will be on testing hypotheses about the role of the following factors as causes of strategic rigidity in parties: the number of veto points in party institutions; the influence of corporatist interest groups; and the opportunity costs associated with moving away from highly mobilized constituencies in society. The result of the fieldwork for this project will be a detailed new understanding of relationships among socioeconomic characteristics, electoral behavior, and party organization within geographical subunits of each country. While this project focuses on three Latin American countries, its theoretical and substantive contribution is potentially broader. This study will address the causes of flexibility in party strategy, a question that, in times of global economic and political change, is of wide relevance. By helping to explain the origins of major conflicts in Peru and Venezuela, the project may help politicians avoid similar conflicts in the future.