Political Behavior, Vol. 24, No. 2, June 2002 ( 2002)
PARTIES AND PARTISANSHIP:
A 40-Year Retrospective
Morris P. Fiorina
The study of political parties and voter partisanship has come full circle in 4 decades.
During the 1960s and 1970s numerous scholars advanced the thesis of party decline,
contending that party organizations had disintegrated, party influence in government
had plummeted, and voter partisanship had eroded. The 1980s and 1990s saw a turn-
around in scholarly judgments, however, as first party organizations, then party in
government, and finally voter partisanship appeared to strengthen. This article re-
views the evidence for the downs and ups of parties, suggesting that the evidence of
party resurgence is more equivocal than often realized. The parties subfield currently
lacks the theory and theoretical sensitivity that enables us to interpret ambiguous em-
pirical evidence. This contrasts with the congressional subfield where the issues now
confronting the parties subfield were recognized a decade ago.
Key words: parties; partisanship; party identification.
The study of parties and partisanship is enjoying a resurgence today. The
existence of this special issue reflects that resurgence, and the articles it con-
tains testify to it. The contributions that follow explore a number of specific
topics relating to parties and partisanship, many using state-of-the-art methods
and models. This article differs from the succeeding ones in offering a broad-
ranging, high-altitude appraisal of the field as seen from one (perhaps contrar-
For more than three decades I have worked in two partially overlapping
subfields of American politics—legislative processes and policymaking, and
parties and elections. On various occasions I have asserted that these were the
most scientifically advanced subfields of American politics, and ipso facto, of
political science. I confess that in some part such claims were just intended
to get a rise out of colleagues in other subfields, but in considerable part I
Morris P. Fiorina, Department of Political Science, Stanford University, 417 Galvez Mall, Stan-
ford, CA 94305-6044 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
0190-9320/02/0600-0093/0 2002 Plenum Publishing Corporation