Political Behavior, Vol. 23, No. 1, 2001
MEASURING PARTY IDENTIFICATION:
Britain, Canada, and the United States
Blais, Elisabeth Gidengil,
Richard Nadeau, and Neil Nevitte
The article proposes an empirically based reflection on how to measure party identifica-
tion cross nationally, using data from the 1997 Canadian Election Study, the 1997
British Election Study, and the 1996 American National Election Study. These studies
included both traditional national questions and a new common one, which allows for
an assessment of the effects of question wording on the distribution and correlates of
party identification. We show that the distribution of party identification is strongly
affected by question wording and that the relationship between party identification
and variables such as party and leader ratings, and voting behavior does not quite
conform to theoretical expectations. We point out problems in the wording of party
identification questions and propose an alternative formulation.
Key words: party identification; question wording; vote.
The question we address is how best to measure party identification from
a cross-national perspective. Party identification is a crucial concept in the
study of electoral behavior. Yet there is no generally accepted measure of party
identification. This is an important handicap to comparative research on voting
We propose a detailed examination of the way party identification is being
measured in three countries: Britain,Canada,and the United States. We also
look at a common set of questions designed to measure party identification
cross nationally,which was incorporated in the 1996 American National Elec-
tion Study (ANES),the 1997 British Election Study (BES),and the 1997
Canadian Election Study (CES).
It is impossible to assess the measurement of a concept without first clarifying
Blais,Department of Political Science,Universite
Centre-Ville,Montreal,Quebec H3C 3J7,Canada (firstname.lastname@example.org). Elisabeth Gidengil,
McGill University; Richard Nadeau,Universite
al; Neil Nevitte,University of Toronto.
0190-9320/01/0300-0005$19.50/0 2001 Plenum Publishing Corporation